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Living longer with osteoporosis: managing fractures to protect quality of life

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    Good news – more people are living longer lives. This can increase the risk of age-related conditions including osteoporosis. That’s why it’s time to do more to identify and manage those at risk of fragility fractures.

    In the second of a series of thought leader articles by UCB personnel, in partnership with the Health Europa journal, we look at the future of fracture prevention. It is a challenge that has evolved in recent decades as life expectancy has risen.

    Between 2015 and 2030, the number of people in the world aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by 56 percent to 1.4 billion. By 2050, the global population of older people is projected to more than double its 2015 size, reaching nearly 2.1 billion.

    This has significant implications age related conditions such as osteoporosis and fragility fractures. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), the increase in fragility fracture incidence across six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK) alone between 2017 and 2030 is estimated at 23 percent.

    These fragility fractures have the potential to impose a significant burden on a person’s life, often making everyday activities such as eating, dressing, shopping or driving difficult. Those that suffer a hip fracture face reduced mobility, disability and loss of independence. In addition to the human cost, fragility fractures cost health systems in the European Union €37 billion in 2010 and based on demographic changes, costs are predicted to double by 2050.

    Treat-to-target

    One way to enhance and individualise the care of patients with osteoporosis would be a treat-to-target approach much in the same way that people with diabetes are often set an HbA1c target. Patients should be educated on their current disease status, in addition to being informed on future risks and their implications, at the time of diagnosis.

    Additionally, Fracture liaison services (FLS) have been shown to reduce the frequency of subsequent fractures, improve adherence to treatment and provide cost savings when correctly implemented. But action is needed such that the care that FLS afford become the standard.

    Ultimately, greater prioritisation needs to be given to osteoporosis identification, education and management. We hope that with an increase in investment for osteoporosis and fragility research, innovation and education, we can collectively tackle the issues faced by those living with the conditions and support those HCPs who play a vital role in the patients’ journey in order to allow them to age healthily.

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