, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 409-418

The Burden of Osteoporosis and the Case for Disease Management

Abstract

Currently, osteoporosis, defined as low bone mineral density (BMD), affects 30% of postmenopausal women and 8% of men >50 years old in Western society and these percentages are likely to increase as our elderly population expands. Osteoporosis-related fractures increase with age and reductions in BMD, with the greatest increase in hip, followed by vertebral, and then wrist fractures. Osteoporosis is associated with significant mortality and for each 1 SD decrease in BMD there is a 1.5-fold increase in mortality risk. Following a hip fracture, 25–30% of patients will die within 3–6 months and in some populations hip fractures account for 1.5% of all deaths. Osteoporosis and related fractures are associated with significant morbidity, with loss of independence, psychological effects, and an overall decreased quality of life.

The current financial cost of osteoporosis in the US is $US14 billion and in the UK just over £1 billion, and these costs will increase 3- to 8-fold over the next 50 years. Treatments are available that have been shown to significantly increase BMD, decrease bone turnover, and as a result decrease fracture incidence. For reductions in both vertebral and fracture, the evidence is strongest for the use of the bisphosphonates alendronate and risedronate; while for vertebral fracture, effective treatments include raloxifene, etidronate, calcitonin, and calcium plus vitamin D. Recent data suggest that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can prevent hip and vertebral fractures, but long-term use, or commencement in elderly women of some continuous combined preparations, is no longer recommended.

It has been recognized that bone turnover and bone quality contribute to fracture risk and, therefore, biochemical assessment of bone resorption and formation may increase the clinical and cost effectiveness of treatment. Using a conservative estimate of fracture reduction (35%) over a 5-year period, an intervention costing $US500 (£333) per year is cost effective when targeted to women with osteoporosis who are ≥65 years of age. It has been calculated that the lower the intervention cost and the higher the effectiveness of treatment the lower the age at which the treatment would be cost effective. The increasing healthcare burden and effective treatments make osteoporosis an excellent candidate for disease management programs.