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BACKGROUND: Glucocorticoids are associated with increased fracture risk and are the mainstay of treatment in polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) and giant cell arteritis (GCA). However, fracture risk in these conditions has not been previously quantified. The aim of this study was to quantify the risk of fracture among patients with PMR and GCA. METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was conducted using primary care records from the UK-based Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Individuals aged 40 years and over, with incident diagnoses of PMR or GCA were separately identified from 1990-2004 and followed up until 2015. For each exposed individual, four age-, sex- and practice-matched controls were randomly selected. Incidence rates of fracture per 10,000 person-years were calculated for each disease group and hazard rates were compared to the unexposed using Cox regression models. RESULTS: Overall, 12,136 and 2673 cases of PMR and GCA, respectively, were identified. The incidence rate of fracture was 148.05 (95% CI 141.16-155.28) in PMR and 147.15 (132.91-162.91) in GCA per 10,000 person-years. Risk of fracture was increased by 63% in PMR (adjusted hazard ratio 1.63, 95% CI 1.54-1.73) and 67% in GCA (1.67, 1.49-1.88) compared to the control populations. Fewer than 13% of glucocorticoid-treated cases were prescribed bisphosphonates. CONCLUSIONS: This study reports, for the first time, a similar increase in fracture risk for patients with PMR and GCA. More needs to be done to improve adherence to guidelines to co-prescribe bisphosphonates. Further research needs to identify whether lower glucocorticoid starting doses and/or aggressive dose reduction reduces fracture risk.

Original publication




Journal article


Bmc med

Publication Date





Fracture, Giant cell arteritis, Glucocorticoids, Osteoporosis, Polymyalgia, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Case-Control Studies, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Fractures, Bone, Giant Cell Arteritis, Glucocorticoids, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, Retrospective Studies, Risk Factors, United Kingdom