Charity calls for action to address crisis in care on World Osteoporosis Day

20 Oct 2016

The National Osteoporosis Society is calling for health professionals to work together with the charity to address a growing crisis in osteoporosis care as new research shows that prescriptions for osteoporosis treatments for women have been falling since 2006.

The call comes on World Osteoporosis Day as the charity highlights the enormous impact that fractures have on the lives of millions of people, as well as the huge financial implications for the UK’s Health Service.

More than 3 million people in the UK are estimated to have osteoporosis and every year more than 300,000 people suffer from fragility fractures, a number which could rise if prescription rates for anti-osteoporosis drugs continue to fall.

Fragility fractures already cost the NHS an estimated £4.4bn every year.

While the National Osteoporosis Society is all too aware of the extreme pressure currently facing GPs and others working in primary care, the charity is providing solutions to tackle the problem through education programmes, information resources, support and awareness raising initiatives.

Prescriptions fall for anti-osteoporotic drugs

Despite the impending crisis, new research  - partly funded by the National Osteoporosis Society, carried out at the University of Southampton and published in the scientific journal Bone – shows prescription rates for anti-osteoporotic drugs (AOD) to people aged 50 years or above have decreased in women since 2006 and stabilised in men.

From 1990 to 2006 prescriptions of anti-osteoporosis drugs for women increased (from 2.3 per 10,000 people annually  to 169.7 per 10,000 people annually), which was followed by a plateau of two years and then subsequently dropped by 12 per cent in the past four years.

For men, prescription rates increased between 1990 and 2007 (from 1.4 per 10,000 people annually to 45 per 10,000 people annually) but then plateaued.

Addressing the crisis

Fizz Thompson, Clinical and Operations Director at the National Osteoporosis Society said the decline in prescriptions of anti-osteoporosis drugs in primary care was concerning.

But she highlighted the innovative work of the charity in setting up Fracture Liaison Services in hospitals and clinics to reduce fractures through earlier identification of osteoporosis.

“The fact that those affected by osteoporosis are not getting the treatments they desperately need is a tragedy which needs to be urgently addressed.

"We will do this by continuing to work together with GPs and Health Service Managers to close the current gap in treating and managing osteoporosis.

“The National Osteoporosis Society has been at the forefront of facilitating this change though our work to set up and improve Fracture Liaison Services - partnerships with the NHS which systematically identify people with fractures at risk of osteoporosis - and ensure that people with the condition are put on the correct treatment in a timely manner, thereby reducing the pain and suffering fractures can cause.”

Professor Nicholas Harvey, Professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, led the study with Dr Robert van der Velde, Consultant Endocrinologist at the Maastricht University Medical Centre and VieCuri Medical Centre, Netherlands.

Professor Harvey said: “The decline in anti-osteoporosis medication prescriptions over the last 10 years is concerning, particularly in the context of an ever more elderly population, in which many fracture types are becoming more common.

"Other work from the CPRD has demonstrated an increase in rates of treatment for osteoporosis following a hip fracture, but still only just over half such patients receive treatment.

"There is a clear and urgent need to close this care gap, and these findings reinforce the critical importance of the work of clinicians, researchers, policy makers and of charities such as the National Osteoporosis Society.”

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