What information can the lay public find about osteoporosis treatment? A descriptive study coding the content and quality of bisphosphonate information on the internet

L. N. Fuzzell, M. J. Richards, L. Fraenkel, S. L. Stark, M. C. Politi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Summary: Despite its effectiveness, bisphosphonate use for osteoporosis is low. We assessed bisphosphonate information on the internet and found the most commonly listed benefits/risks were bone density loss, gastrointestinal issues, and jaw necrosis, that risk quantification was rare, and information quality varied. Findings underscore the importance of clinical communication about bisphosphonates. Introduction: The US Preventative Services Task Force recommends osteoporosis screening and treatment with bisphosphonates in high-risk populations. However, bisphosphonate use among individuals with osteoporosis remains low. The content and quality of information from outside sources may influence individuals’ bisphosphonate decisions. Therefore, we sought to assess the content and quality of osteoporosis treatment information available to the public by conducting an internet search and coding available bisphosphonate information. Methods: Eleven search terms about osteoporosis and bisphosphonates were entered into four search engines. Two raters assessed websites for information about bisphosphonates, whether and how benefits and side effects were described and quantified, contraindications, and dosing instructions. Coders also assessed website interface and slant/balance of information. Results: One thousand four hundred seventy-three websites were identified. Two hundred twenty-seven websites met inclusion criteria and were coded. The most common bisphosphonate benefit described was prevention of bone density loss (77.1% of websites). The most common side effects described were gastrointestinal problems (66.1%) and jaw osteonecrosis (58.6%). Most websites did not quantify bisphosphonate benefits (78.0%) or side effects (82.4%). Complementary/integrative health websites (p <.001) and pharmaceutical litigation websites (p <.001) were more often slanted against taking bisphosphonates, compared to all websites coded. General medical knowledge websites were more balanced than other websites (p =.023). Conclusions: The quality of bisphosphonate information on the internet varies substantially. Providers counseling patients about osteoporosis treatment should inquire about patients’ baseline bisphosphonate knowledge. Providers can complement accurate information and address potential bisphosphonate misconceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2299-2310
Number of pages12
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Bisphosphonates
  • Health communication
  • Online information
  • Osteoporosis


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