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A silent epidemic?

According to a recent survey, bone specialists believe osteoporosis and fragility fractures are neglected and under-prioritised by their healthcare systems, and action needs to be taken.

The survey released by UCB, and conducted in August 2019, asked 401 bone specialists from 11 European countries about their experience of osteoporosis and fragility fracture management.

Of those surveyed, 66% agreed that osteoporosis is a neglected condition and only 10% of specialists surveyed agreed that osteoporosis and fragility fractures are currently given a high priority by their local health authority. When asked, the majority (90%) agreed that the condition should be a public health priority and 91% agreed that effective management can improve outcomes and reduce costs. At present, in women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes and breast cancer. In 2010, the cost of fragility fractures in the EU was €37 billion, and based on demographic changes is predicted to double by 2050.

These results confirm what many of us already knew. Every year that goes by, more patients are potentially being denied effective management, leaving them vulnerable to life changing fractures. We need dedicated policy advisory groups to support national osteoporosis professionals and patient groups to implement effective approaches to bridge this prioritisation gap for policy makers, primary care and patients” commented Dr Kassim Javaid, Consultant Rheumatologist, University of Oxford.

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The survey results also suggest that patients are not well informed about osteoporosis and its impact. Only a third (33%) of specialists feel their patients understand the long term impact of osteoporosis and more than half (53%) say their patients believe there is a low, to no increased risk of subsequent fragility fractures after the first, despite evidence which shows that after experiencing the first fracture, you are five times more likely to suffer another fracture within a year.8 Worse still, for those that suffer a hip fracture, 40% are not able to walk independently again and up to a quarter of those who suffer a hip fracture die in the first year through complications.

In addition, the survey highlighted challenges in osteoporosis management may also sit at the primary care level. The majority (84%) of specialists agreed that increased awareness and understanding of osteoporosis is needed for general practitioners, and only 32% agreed that GPs refer suspected osteoporosis diagnoses in a timely manner.

Osteoporosis patients can face a great loss of independence and a reduced quality of life, especially after experiencing a fragility fracture and these survey results highlight that the specialists treating the condition believe that not enough is being done to ensure it’s given the priority that’s required at the healthcare system level,” said Dr. Pascale Richetta, Head of Bone and Executive Vice President at UCB. “We need to help prevent this silent epidemic from spreading by better educating policy makers, physicians and patients on the long-term impact of osteoporosis, so that the condition can be effectively managed, and the risk of subsequent, iterative, fractures reduced.”

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