BACKGROUND: Bisphosphonates are contraindicated in patients with stage 4+ chronic kidney disease. However, they are widely used to prevent fragility fractures in stage 3 chronic kidney disease, despite a lack of good-quality data on their effects.
OBJECTIVES: The aims of each work package were as follows. Work package 1: to study the relationship between bisphosphonate use and chronic kidney disease progression. Work package 2: to study the association between using bisphosphonates and fracture risk. Work package 3: to determine the risks of hypocalcaemia, hypophosphataemia, acute kidney injury and upper gastrointestinal events associated with using bisphosphonates. Work package 4: to investigate the association between using bisphosphonates and changes in bone mineral density over time.
DESIGN: This was a new-user cohort study design with propensity score matching.
SETTING AND DATA SOURCES: Data were obtained from UK NHS primary care (Clinical Practice Research Datalink GOLD database) and linked hospital inpatient records (Hospital Episode Statistics) for work packages 1-3 and from the Danish Odense University Hospital Databases for work package 4.
PARTICIPANTS: Patients registered in the data sources who had at least one measurement of estimated glomerular filtration rate of < 45 ml/minute/1.73 m2 were eligible. A second estimated glomerular filtration rate value of < 45 ml/minute/1.73 m2 within 1 year after the first was requested for work packages 1 and 3. Patients with no Hospital Episode Statistics linkage were excluded from work packages 1-3. Patients with < 1 year of run-in data before index estimated glomerular filtration rate and previous users of anti-osteoporosis medications were excluded from work packages 1-4.
INTERVENTIONS/EXPOSURE: Bisphosphonate use, identified from primary care prescriptions (for work packages 1-3) or pharmacy dispensations (for work package 4), was the main exposure.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Work package 1: chronic kidney disease progression, defined as stage worsening or starting renal replacement. Work package 2: hip fracture. Work package 3: acute kidney injury, hypocalcaemia and hypophosphataemia identified from Hospital Episode Statistics, and gastrointestinal events identified from Clinical Practice Research Datalink or Hospital Episode Statistics. Work package 4: annualised femoral neck bone mineral density percentage change.
RESULTS: Bisphosphonate use was associated with an excess risk of chronic kidney disease progression (subdistribution hazard ratio 1.12, 95% confidence interval 1.02 to 1.24) in work package 1, but did not increase the probability of other safety outcomes in work package 3. The results from work package 2 suggested that bisphosphonate use increased fracture risk (hazard ratio 1.25, 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 1.39) for hip fractures, but sensitivity analyses suggested that this was related to unresolved confounding. Conversely, work package 4 suggested that bisphosphonates improved bone mineral density, with an average 2.65% (95% confidence interval 1.32% to 3.99%) greater gain in femoral neck bone mineral density per year in bisphosphonate users than in matched non-users.
LIMITATIONS: Confounding by indication was a concern for the clinical effectiveness (i.e. work package 2) data. Bias analyses suggested that these findings were due to inappropriate adjustment for pre-treatment risk. work packages 3 and 4 were based on small numbers of events and participants, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Bisphosphonates were associated with a 12% excess risk of chronic kidney disease progression in participants with stage 3B+ chronic kidney disease. No other safety concerns were identified. Bisphosphonate therapy increased bone mineral density, but the research team failed to demonstrate antifracture effectiveness.
FUTURE WORK: Randomised controlled trial data are needed to demonstrate antifracture efficacy in patients with stage 3B+ chronic kidney disease. More safety analyses are needed to characterise the renal toxicity of bisphosphonates in stage 3A chronic kidney disease, possibly using observational data.
STUDY REGISTRATION: This study is registered as EUPAS10029.
FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 25, No. 17. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information. The project was also supported by the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford.