Ageing Europeans hit by rising bone fractures: Report

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As Europe’s population ages, bone fractures due to osteoporosis are likely to result in increasing burden on healthcare systems, according to a new report by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

According to the report on Osteoporosis in the European Union, approximately 3.5 million new fragility fractures occur annually in the EU.

In 2010 alone, fragility fractures resulted in costs of €37 billion for healthcare systems, according to the study, which claims to be the first to describe the burden of osteoporosis in all 27 EU member states.

Osteoporosis is a common condition that causes bones to become weak and fragile. People with osteoporosis are at high risk of breaking a bone, even after a minor fall, bump or a sudden movement.

These fractures can have a huge impact and lead to substantial pain, disability and premature death, the report says.

Based on data collected in 2010, the report has found that 22 million women and 5.5 million men in the EU have osteoporosis. By 2025, that number would have increased 23%, according to estimates in the report.

“It is very worrying that health systems are unprepared to meet the growing tide of fractures due to osteoporosis," IOF President John Kanis said.

"High risk individuals are not being routinely identified and offered treatment. The current model of osteoporosis management is not sustainable as Europe’s population ages and fracture incidence and costs increase still further,” said Kanis, who is based at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Metabolic Bone Diseases at England's University of Sheffield Medical School.

Better provision and prevention

Even people who have broken a bone due to osteoporosis and go to hospitals or clinics for care, are not being systematically diagnosed and treated to prevent further fractures, the report stated.

A first fracture doubles the risk of suffering another, making prevention of this kind critical. 

Safe and cost-effective medications to reduce the risk of fracture are widely available throughout Europe, but according to the report, despite the rising number of people in need of treatment, the actual number of patients taking preventive medication is declining.

"The low rate of diagnosis and treatment in high-risk individuals is compounded by the fact that, even when prescribed, approximately 50% of patients do not follow their treatment regimen," said Juliet Compston, professor of Bone Medicine at the University of Cambridge and chair of the European Osteoporosis Consultation Panel.

Compston added that it's apparent that Europe’s health authorities must make provision in their healthcare planning to deal with the increase in fractures and associated disability.

Key elements of any national strategy must include the better implementation of national guidelines and improvement of adherence to proven cost-effective treatment by patients, the professor stressed.

In 2010, it's estimated that 22 million women and 5.5 million men in the EU had osteoporosis using the criterion of the World Health Organization.

Due to changes in population demography, the number of men and women with osteoporosis will rise from 27.5 million in 2010 to 33.9 million in 2025, an increase of 23%.

In 2010, the number of deaths causally related to fractures was estimated at 43,000. In women, approximately 50% of fracture-related deaths were due to hip fractures, 28% to clinical vertebral and 22% to other fractures.

In men, the corresponding proportions were 47%, 39% and 14%, respectively.

International organisations

  • International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF): Website

Business & Industry

  • European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA): Website

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