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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

87% neglect osteoporosis medicines: Clinicians and advocates call for urgent action

Health Industry Hub | October 20, 2023 |

Pharma News: Renowned hurdler and Olympic gold medallist, Sally Pearson, OAM, is leading a high-profile initiative alongside medical professionals, patients, and political figures, as they unveil pivotal insights from Healthy Bones Australia’s ‘Know Your Bones Community Risk Report’. The event took place yesterday at the Parliamentary Friends of Aged Care gathering in Parliament House, just ahead of World Osteoporosis Day taking place today.

The latest report distils data collected from over 104,000 Australians who have completed the ‘Know Your Bones’ online self-assessment tool, a collaborative effort between Healthy Bones Australia and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. The tool is designed to help individuals assess their risk of developing osteoporosis and bone fractures, offering personalised recommendations for bone health. Patients can share these findings with their general practitioners for further evaluation.

Professor Peter Ebeling, AO, FAHMS, Chair of Healthy Bones Australia, Endocrinologist, and Head of the Department of Medicine at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health in Melbourne, underscored the report’s findings.

“The report is showing gaps in care, with one-in-two (52%) adults who reported a bone fracture, yet to undergo a bone mineral density (BMD) test to investigate their bone health. Of those respondents who reported a fracture, 87% are not taking osteoporosis medication, while the vast majority have lifestyle risk factors,” said Professor Ebeling.

Ms Pearson shared her personal experience of battling back from a crippling wrist injury, which compromised her mobility, independence, and mental well-being.

“The rehabilitation process was more traumatic than the actual fracture,” Ms Pearson recounted. “Thankfully, because my bones were generally quite strong, I was able to mount a successful recovery from my injury, and to win my second World Championship in 2017. This is not the case however, for many Australians living with osteoporosis. We know that too many people are suffering unnecessarily from broken bones that could have been prevented. Based on my personal experience with fractures, I know how important it is to look after your bones.”

The new report calls for early bone health assessment through BMD testing and emphasises the need for medical intervention to mitigate the impact of preventable fractures. It also urges Australian adults to adopt a bone-healthy lifestyle to minimise their risk of developing osteoporosis.

Greg Lyubomirsky, CEO of Healthy Bones Australia, echoed these sentiments, emphasising the organisation’s mission to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and reduce the burden of avoidable fractures.

“Concerningly, our 2023 report reveals half of all fractures are occurring in adults aged 50-69 years, and nearly a quarter of respondents over 70 years (24 per cent) with clinical risk factors for osteoporosis, have not undergone a BMD test. More than one-third of respondents reported a clinical risk factor (36 per cent), yet only half (52 per cent) reported having a BMD test,” he stated.

The report also highlights the prevalence of lifestyle risk factors, including inadequate calcium and vitamin D levels, lack of exercise, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption, all of which are critical for maintaining bone health.

Dr Weiwen Chen, Deputy Chair of the Healthy Bones Australia Medical Committee and Specialist Endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, stressed the life-altering consequences of fractures resulting from poor bone health.

“We need to improve investigation rates for those living with risk factors for poor bone health, or those who have already broken a bone, particularly given BMD testing is widely available, and reimbursed via Medicare for many risk factors, and for those aged 70 years or over.

“Effective treatment options are also available in Australia to reduce fracture risk. We encourage GPs working at the frontline of osteoporosis care to utilise these tools to capture at-risk consumers and manage osteoporosis,” he said.

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