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

December 4, 2001

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.

A newly-created European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group today issued a "Call to Action" to spur government action against osteoporosis, which affects one in three women and one in eight men over the age of 50.

The Call to Action, which was 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.

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 European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group was established to reverse the frightening predictions of increased osteoporotic fractures.

The 14 founding 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.

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."

In thanking Mel Read and her colleagues 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."

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."

How serious is osteoporosis?

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. Osteoporosis-related disability confines patients to more immobile days in bed than chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, myocardial infarction or breast cancer."

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.

Need for action

IOF Patron Queen Rania of Jordan, in a message issued at the launch, noted that "IOF encourages health ministers to make osteoporosis a health priority in their countries. We have plenty of information about prevention, early detection and treatment. What we need now is more action from everyone."

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. Why don't the policy makers listen to peoples' voices and change government policies on paying for appropriate diagnosis and treatment? Why don't government agencies do more to promote awareness about the disease?"

Note: The founding members of the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group includes the following MEPs, with additional members expected to join:

Mary Banotti, MEP (Ireland)
John Bowis, MEP (UK)
Gunilla Carlsson, MEP (Sweden)
Charlotte Cederschiold, MEP (Sweden)
Proinsias de Rossa, MEP (Ireland)
Den Dover, MEP (UK)
Colette Flesch, MEP (Luxembourg)
Caroline Jackson, MEP (UK)
Karin Jöns, MEP (Germany)
Minerva Malliori, MEP (Greece)
Dr. Angelika Niebler, MEP (Germany)
Giuseppe Nistico, MEP (Italy)
Elly Plooij van Gorsel, MEP (Netherlands)
Mel Read, MEP (UK) Chair of the Interest Group
Frederique Ries, MEP (Belgium)
Catherine Stihler, MEP (UK)
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, MEP (Denmark)

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)

IOF-International Osteoporosis is an international non-governmental organization whose mission is to advance the understanding of osteoporosis and to promote prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease worldwide. For more information on osteoporosis. and to contact IOF's member societies please visit

For more information please contact:
Siofra Sharpe,

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