Update on long-term treatment with bisphosphonates for postmenopausal osteoporosis: A systematic review

Erik F. Eriksen, Adolfo Díez-Pérez, Steven Boonen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Osteoporosis is a progressive skeletal disorder that requires long-term treatment. However, there is little guidance regarding optimal treatment duration and what the treatment discontinuation and retreatment criteria should be. Given that bisphosphonates are the most commonly prescribed class of agent for the treatment of osteoporosis, we reviewed the long-term data relating to these therapies and discussed the considerations for using bisphosphonates in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Methods: A PubMed search, using the search terms 'bisphosphonate', 'postmenopausal osteoporosis' and 'long term' and/or 'extension' was conducted in January 2013. Results from nine controlled studies that prospectively assessed alendronate, risedronate, ibandronate or zoledronic acid in women with postmenopausal osteoporosis were reviewed. Findings: Clinical studies in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis showed that long-term use of bisphosphonates resulted in persistent antifracture and bone mineral density (BMD) increasing effects beyond 3. years of treatment. No unexpected adverse events were identified in these studies and the long-term tolerability profiles of bisphosphonates remain favorable. Data from the withdrawal extension studies of alendronate and zoledronic acid also showed that residual fracture benefits were seen in patients who discontinued treatment for 3 to 5. years after an initial 3- to 5-year treatment period. BMD monitoring and fracture risk assessments should be conducted regularly to determine whether treatment could be stopped or should be reinitiated. Patients exhibiting T-scores. <. 2.5 or who have suffered a new fracture while on treatment should continue treatment, while patients with T-scores. >. 2.5 could be considered for discontinuation of active treatment while undergoing continued monitoring of their bone health. The duration and potential discontinuation of treatment should be personalized for individual patients based on their response to treatment, fracture risk and comorbidities. © 2013.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-135
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Bisphosphonate
  • Bone mineral density
  • Fracture
  • Long term
  • Postmenopausal osteoporosis


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