Osteoporosis: speaking up against a ‘silent epidemic’
Posted byScott Fleming, Global Communications & Company Reputation
UCB is committed to improving the lives of those affected by severe diseases, including osteoporosis. However, while fragility factures can have a significant impact on quality of life, the condition is often referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ because very few people know they have it until they break a bone.
Dr Pascale Richetta, Executive Vice President and Head of the Bone Patient Value Unit at UCB, believes osteoporosis is not ranked high enough from a public health standpoint. This is despite the fact that it affects 200 million people worldwide. Recent studies estimate that every year €37 billion is spent on healthcare costs for the 2.7 million fragility fractures that occur across the EU6 nations of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. This annual expenditure is predicted to increase to over €47 billion by 2030.
That is why a blog post by Dr Pascale Richetta was recently published in the GM journal – a peer-reviewed resource for care healthcare professionals interested in the ageing patient. It is important that healthcare stakeholders and policymakers recognise that fractures can be life-changing events.
What bone specialists think
Experts agree that osteoporosis is overlooked. UCB recently conducted a survey of 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 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, with 91% agreeing that effective management can improve outcomes and reduce costs.
The survey results also showed specialists feel their patients believe that osteoporosis or fragility fractures will only impact them in the short term, despite clear evidence of its long-term impact on quality of life and independence.
GPs can play a key role in reducing the burden of fragility fractures. It would be ideal if tests for osteoporosis were embedded into the assessment of all patients over the age of 50 years in the same way that blood pressure is assessed and treated with a target in mind. This way, treatment measures would be in place to minimise the loss of bone and identify both osteoporosis and osteopenia earlier.
For people with osteoporosis, the first fracture is often a turning point. Hip fractures can greatly impact autonomy: 40% of patients who suffer a hip fracture are not able to walk independently again and up to a quarter die in the first year through complications.
Vertebral fractures are also very damaging fractures because they are very painful and can impair a patient’s everyday activities. This profoundly affects quality of life and can lead to costs for families as well as health and social services.
UCB will continue to play its part in delivering solutions to people at risk of, and affected by, osteoporosis. This includes lending our voice to the chorus of experts who say that osteoporosis deserves more attention. Together we can end the silence.