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Osteoporosis in the European Community: A Call to Action

The audit "Osteoporosis in the European Community: A Call to Action" is available here (PDF, 818 KB)


European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group Newsletter

Issue 1. July 2002 (PDF, 264 KB)

Issue 2. January 2003 (PDF, 364 KB)


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Osteoporosis in the European Community: A Call to Action

Audit report shows "disappointing progress" since 1998, fractures increase by 25%

Mel Read, leader of the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group

Mel Read, MEP, UK chaired the press conference and is leader of the newly created European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group.

In December 2001 a newly-created European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group issued a "Call to Action" to spur government action against osteoporosis.

The Call to Action, enthusiastically supported by the European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne, said that national health authorities and health insurance agencies should pay for diagnosis and treatment of people with osteoporosis risk factors before their first fracture, as is often the procedure for people with risk factors for other serious illnesses, such as heart disease. See key findings.

View a video of the European Parliament Call to Action press conference and launch of the EP Osteoporosis Interest Group

The European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group was established to reverse the frightening predictions of increased osteoporotic fractures. The Interest Group also urged the creation of a Europe-wide data collection system in order to effectively monitor progress against this painful, debilitating, chronic bone disease.

The members of the The European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group will act as osteoporosis ambassadors to help implement the Call the Action over the next three years, at which time another audit will be performed. In order to help implement the EP Osteoporosis Interest Group's "Call to Action", the IOF has been awarded a grant from the EC for a policy project entitled "Call to Osteoporosis Action". This project plans to bring policy makers from the European Union and its member states, and osteoporosis experts, together to form a consultation panel to work on practical, cost effective strategies to improve access to diagnosis and proven therapies before the first fracture. The project will run for 18 months from summer 2002. The first meeting of the consultation panel was held in Leiden, The Netherlands in September 2002.

Speakers at the press conference

Speakers at the December 4th press conference were (right to left): Carmen Sanchez, osteoporosis patient; Dr. Juliet Compston, Co-editor of 1998 Report on Osteoporosis in the European Community; Prof. Pierre. D Delmas, IOF President; Mel. Read, MEP and head of new Osteoporosis Interest Group; David Byrne, EU Commissioner of Health and Consumer Protection; Nicole Marechal, Minister of Health of French language Community in Belgium; Prof. J-Y. Reginster, Director WHO Collaborating Centre for Public Health Aspects of Osteoporosis and Rheumatic Diseases and IOF General Secretary

Commissioner's endorsement

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne noted that osteoporosis "is a disease that is sadly overlooked, under-diagnosed and under-treated." He agreed with the audit report's main conclusion noting "The key target for policy action has to be to prevent the first fracture." He added that "the European Commission will take action in the short term to stimulate the necessary policy response at national level. That includes better monitoring and data collection, and pushing for national measures to make people more aware of the disease, to make doctors recognise those at risk of osteoporosis and to make healthcare systems pay for appropriate diagnosis and treatment."

See press release issued by the European Commission (PDF, 36 KB)

Frightening predictions

Mrs Imelda Read (UK), a long-standing Member of the European Parliament who is chair of the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group, said "since 1998 the suffering and cost of osteoporosis has increased at a staggering rate, and with the ageing population this situation will get worse unless appropriate action is taken now."

The Audit Report

Osteoporosis in the European Community: A Call to Action, prepared by IOF-International Osteoporosis Foundation and released at the same press conference, indicates that osteoporotic fractures in Europe have increased by some 25% since a 1998 European Union report was issued, but government action has been "disappointing" and has not stopped significant suffering resulting from the disease.

Dr. Juliet Compston of the University of Cambridge, UK, who was co-editor of the 1998 report -- Osteoporosis in the European Community-Action for Prevention, noted that in the past three years the cost of osteoporosis has increased some 33% and now costs more than Euro 4.8 billion annually in European Community hospital health care alone.

Bone testing prior to the press conference Prior to the press conference, 10 MEPs had their bones tested on a DXA machine. Among them was Dr. Angelika Niebler, MEP from Germany and member of the Osteoporosis Interest Group.

"This figure is a conservative estimate," noted Mrs Mary Anderson, IOF board member, "since it only relates to statistics available regarding hip fractures and largely ignores additional costs such as rehabilitation, nursing home costs, home care and other charges. If you calculate other fractures, such as vertebral fractures and the additional costs, the total cost will be considerably higher."

Improved data collection

Speaking at the launch of the audit report, European Commissioner David Byrne supported the creation of "a much more user-friendly and dynamic data collection and health information system." Commissioner Byrne was referring to the fact that currently it is very difficult to obtain accurate and comparable data. And when data are available they are generally limited to hip fractures, while the impact of other fractures are ignored in the statistics.

EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne Commissioner David Byrne with the results of his bone scan. Early detection of low bone mineral density is the key to preventing osteoporotic bone fractures before they occur.

The Call to Action endorses the creation of a coordinated Europe-wide data collection system to count osteoporotic fractures, which will for the first time allow health authorities to accurately define the burden of osteoporotic fractures and ultimately lead to the development of more effective ways to prevent fractures.

Putting the issue in perspective, Professor Pierre D. Delmas, IOF president, said that "Osteoporosis can be easily and painlessly diagnosed and effectively treated. So why haven't European governments done more to stop this silent epidemic? That's the question that millions of European voters and taxpayers are increasingly asking."

See list of European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group Members

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