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EUROPEAN UNION CONFIRMS COMMITMENT TO MAKE OSTEOPOROSIS A PUBLIC HEALTH PRIORITY

Consultation panel of government health officials, and osteoporosis experts reviews progress towards diagnosing and treating osteoporosis before the first fracture

LEIDEN, The Netherlands
September 22, 2002

Efforts to make osteoporosis a health care priority in Europe received a boost at the first meeting of the "European Union Osteoporosis Consultation Panel."

"European Union governments are starting to take osteoporosis seriously," noted Mary Anderson, International Osteoporosis Foundation-IOF board member and EU policy project coordinator.

The consultation panel is composed of some 40 senior government health policy makers from EU countries. European Parliament and European Commission representatives, as well as osteoporosis experts who are members of IOF, were called to update the information about osteoporosis policy developments in each of the 15 EU countries published in December 2001, and to discuss next steps for policy action to make osteoporosis a healthcare priority.

Some highlights of the September 9 consultation:

Several governments, such as Austria, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and the UK are taking encouraging steps to make osteoporosis a health care priority. Some countries, such as Ireland and Luxemburg, are starting to commit funds to help implement information campaigns and coordinate actions. The Netherlands and the UK, among other countries, have already, or are currently establishing national prevention and treatment guidelines produced by government agencies.

"While it's encouraging that some countries are recognising that osteoporosis is widespread, under-diagnosed and causes great suffering and economic cost, much more needs to be done," IOF Chief Executive Officer Daniel Navid said. "Few countries have government osteoporosis programmes in place with funding and designated leadership."

A 2001 IOF report Osteoporosis in the European Community: A Call to Action-an audit of policy developments since 1998 noted that the situation is serious -- one in three middle-aged women in European Union and one in eight middle-aged men will suffer one or more osteoporotic fractures during their lifetime. In the EU osteoporosis now costs more than € 4.8 billion annually in hospital healthcare alone – a staggering 33% increase over three years. The number of hip fractures caused by osteoporosis in the EU is expected to double in the next 50 years."

Following his December 2001 promise to stimulate policy change and work with IOF, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne supported this conference to change words into action. The European Commission is providing IOF with a grant of approximately € 200,000 for activities and publications that will promote osteoporosis policy changes.

Three members of the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group are assisting and monitoring this project: Minerva Malliori, MEP (Greece), Angelika Niebler, MEP (Germany) and Elly Plooij van Gorsel, MEP (the Netherlands).

Mrs Plooij van Gorsel noted "Osteoporosis is a huge problem in Europe. The most important thing is that suffering and disability can be prevented. The European Commission is working with IOF to develop practical, cost-effective strategies to prevent osteoporotic fractures and to create a coordinated data collection system to monitor osteoporotic fractures."

Dr Juliet Compston, IOF scientific advisor and EU policy project leader noted that while the overall result of the conference was positive two major challenges remain. "In order to make real progress that will help the millions of Europeans with osteoporosis, who we must remember are also voters and taxpayers, each government has to provide adequate funding and make a senior official responsible for improving osteoporosis policy," she said.

end

Background to this initiative

The Leiden conference, hosted by Dr. Socrates Papaloulos, an IOF board member who is director of bone and mineral research at the University of Leiden Medical Centre, builds on previous IOF policy initiatives in Europe.

In 1998, at the request of the European Parliament, the European Commission published the Report on Osteoporosis in the European Community-Action for Prevention, which recommended eight priority actions to make osteoporosis a healthcare priority. This report was launched at a press conference at the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium, by the European Foundation For Osteoporosis, which merged with the International Federation of Societies on Skeletal Diseases to form IOF.

In December 2001, IOF published Osteoporosis in the European Community: A Call to Action-an audit of policy developments since 1998, which shows that actions taken since the 1998 report are insufficient and that much more needs to be done. At the launch of this report EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne pledged his support for improving osteoporosis policy.

The lack of action, revealed in the audit report, stimulated Members of the European Parliament to create the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group, chaired by Mel Read, MEP (United Kingdom). The Interest Group is currently composed of 25 MEPs from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. At the December 2001 event, the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group issued a Call to Action which urged government health care systems to pay for diagnosis and approved treatment of people with osteoporosis prior to the first fracture.

On a global scale, in May 2002 at the IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis in Lisbon, Portugal, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, IOF patron, led 11 international women in urging policy makers to improve access to diagnosis and treatment of people with osteoporosis before the first bone fracture.

For more information please contact: Mary Anderson, IOF board member and EU policy project coordinator: manderson@osteofound.org

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