Headlines Published on 05 July 2011

Title European healthcare feels fragility fracture pressure

Last year some 2.5 million new fragility fractures emerged in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom alone, reveals the latest International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) report, produced in collaboration with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA). The report provides major insight into how the burden of this physical ailment across the continent has been highly underestimated. Presented in the journal Archives of Osteoporosis, the 'Osteoporosis: Burden, healthcare provision and opportunities in the European Union' report investigates two key components of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures in Europe: epidemiology and health economics.

Fracture pain © Shutterstock
Fracture pain
©  Shutterstock

The report shows how the 2.5 million reported cases are equivalent to 280 fractures per hour. It also notes how 80 deaths each day are attributed to fragility factures.

From a global perspective, say experts, 1 in 5 men and 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will sustain an osteoporotic fracture. Most patients deal with much pain and suffering, as well as disability and even death. Consequently, osteoporosis places a huge burden on both society and the individual.

Says IOF President John Kanis: 'This landmark report exposes a number of major issues and challenges related to health care provision for fragility fractures. What is particularly striking is how the economic burden of fractures has increased in just over a decade. In 2000 the economic burden of fractures for the then European Union was estimated at EUR 36 billion. The current estimate of EUR 30.7 billion for just 6 countries largely reflects the increased number of fractures due to Europe's ageing population.'

The report reveals that fractures contributed to around 34 000 deaths in 2010, with 49 % of the cases linked to hip fractures. Calculated in quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), the overall health burden of osteoporotic fractures was estimated at around 850 000 QALYs. The EUR 30.7-million cost of healthcare accounted for 3.5 % of the total spending on healthcare in the 6 countries. Pharmacological prevention was included in the cost. Acute management of fracture covered most of the total costs, while pharmacological prevention and treatment accounted for only 4.7 % of the costs. Only a small number of people are treated for the prevention of fractures.

Experts say the number of fractures will jump 29% to 3.2 million in 2025, and health care costs are estimated to rise to EUR 38.5 billion. They believe that implementing better clinical guidelines could help close this 'treatment gap', cut costs and save nearly 700 000 fractures.

The report shows how the cost of dealing with fractures in the six countries tops those for stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and migraine.

Commenting on the data, EFPIA Director General Richard Bergström says: 'In Europe the number of elderly is set to increase markedly, with individuals expected to enjoy a longer life expectancy than ever before. We also know that the incidence of fractures rises progressively with age, and as a result we can expect the economic and social impact of fractures to increase significantly unless action is taken. Fortunately, we have a host of effective diagnostic and treatment options at our disposal — it is time to implement these advances fully.'

More information:

  • International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF)
  • European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA)

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