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CORK, Ireland
5 April, 2004

Irish Osteoporosis Society opens support group in Cork: MEP Mel Read receives first IOF President's Award.

Speaking at a workshop held in Cork on April 5, 2004, Mr Micheál Martin TD, Irish Minister for Health said "The Irish government is committed to working to try and find healthcare solutions for diseases such as osteoporosis and will work together with the European Parliament and other Member States, to encourage future European Health Presidencies to bring forward this work" (see text of speech, PDF, 112 KB).

A. Witty, GSK European President; M. O‚Brien, President IOS; M. Martin, Minister of Health, Ireland; M. Anderson, IOF Board Member; J. O‚Toole, Irish Permanent Representative to the EU

The workshop , "Delivering patient expectations and managing European health priorities: the case of osteoporosis", brought together patients, medical experts, policy-makers and pharmaceutical industry representatives from Europe to discuss how governments should co-ordinate the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis.

The workshop explored issues such as:

  • Achieving a better understanding of the needs of European Osteoporosis patients
  • Understanding how medicine and innovation can meet the needs of patients using the case of osteoporosis
  • Determining the conditions which would ensure that patients take on more responsibility for their healthcare choices
  • Determining the ways governments define health priorities which will meet the needs of patients, in a society with a growing ageing population
  • Addressing these issues in the context of the crisis in Social Security and consequent pressures on health spending

The event was hosted by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and IOF-member the Irish Osteoporosis Society (IOS), and supported by an unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Standing: A. Witty, President GSK Europe; M. Anderson, Board Member IOF; K. Göncz, Secretary of State, Hungary; M. Hamilton, EU Business, Dept. Health, UK; M. ten Ham, International Affairs, Dutch Ministry of Health. Sitting: M. Wren, Chair, Journalist, Author, Economist; M. Martin, Minister of Health, Ireland; M. O‚Brien, President, IOS; J. Compston, Board Member IOF; M. Read MEP; M. Skar, European Commission, Public Health

"Osteoporosis is one of the most serious, debilitating and costly diseases in Europe yet it is also one of the least recognised," said Mary Anderson, IOF board member. "Today one person in the EU suffers an osteoporosis fracture every 30 seconds. Action is needed now to make osteoporosis and related fractures a European healthcare priority. "

Recognizing the need to provide support for people with osteoporosis in the Cork region, the IOS announced the launch of a patient support group for the area. The first meeting of the group will be held in early May with over eighty people committed to participate. "We're delighted to be able to increase the awareness of osteoporosis and to give advice on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis to help patients and their families within the Cork area", said Professor Moira O'Brien, IOS President.

Member of European Parliament Mel Read (UK) and Chair of the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group was presented with the first IOF President's Award in recognition of her ongoing support to improve political awareness and policies for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and related fractures. Mrs Read will retire from the European Parliament this June after 15 years of service. Speaking at the workshop, Mrs Read noted "Far too many Europeans at high risk of osteoporosis will suffer needlessly because they did not have timely diagnosis or preventive therapies."

Mel Read MEP receiving 1st IOF President's Award for ongoing support to stimulate OP policy developments. From right: M. O'Brien, President IOS; Mel Read MEP; Mary Anderson, IOF Board Member; Brian Gavin of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

For more information please contact:

Mary Anderson, International Osteoporosis Foundation.
Telephone +32 473390669 E-mail

Prof. Moira O'Brien, President Irish Osteoporosis Society.
Telephone +353 1 6081182

Jo Wood, GlaxoSmithKline Brussels.
Telephone +32 475370080 E-mail

Jenny Hughes, GlaxoSmithKline Ireland.
Telephone +353 862360886 E-mail

Osteoporosis in Europe
Osteoporosis, in which the bones become porous and break easily, is one of Europe's most common but least recognized diseases. One in three women over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, as will one in eight men1, imposing a huge social and financial burden on society. In Europe, the annual first-year direct cost of treating all osteoporotic fractures is estimated at €25 billion. One person in the EU suffers an osteoporotic fracture every 30 seconds2. With an ageing population, the number of fractures and their costs will at least double in the next fifty years3 unless effective preventive strategies are developed.


1 Melton LJ, Chrischilles EA, Cooper C et al. How many women have osteoporosis? Journal of Bone Mineral Research, 1992; 7:1005-10

2 Compston J et al. Fast facts – Osteoporosis 2nd edition. Health press Limited, Oxford; 1999

3 Report on Osteoporosis in the European Community – Action for Prevention; European Commission 1998

Osteoporosis in Ireland

Osteoporosis is a silent disease which is growing at a truly alarming rate. Despite its devastating impact on the patient and the huge financial burden it places on the healthcare system and economy, the prevention of osteoporosis has not been adopted by the Irish government as a major health policy.

In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of patients over 60 years of age hospitalised for the typical osteoporotic fractures of the hip, vertebrae and wrist. For example, Hospital Inpatient and Enquiry data shows that hip fractures have increased in patients over 60 years of age, from 1509 in 1990 to 3202 in 2002 with the average hospital stay of 16.5 days for osteoporotic hip fractures. Patients hospitalised for vertebral and wrist fractures have also increased. There is no data on the number of other low trauma fractures that have resulted from osteoporosis in any age group. However, many low trauma fracture patients presenting at accident and emergency facilities are not diagnosed with osteoporosis and so miss out on interventions to prevent future fractures. Despite the lack of epidemiological and cost data in this area, it is clear that the management of osteoporosis related fractures consumes a significant amount of health care resources. With changing lifestyles and the aging of the population, this burden posed by osteoporosis on the healthcare system is set to worsen unless the current system of diagnosis and management of the disease is changed.

Osteoporosis is diagnosed by Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. Prevention of osteoporosis by scanning patients at risk and initiating treatment early would help to reduce fractures and the burden associated with the disease. Currently there are thirty-six DEXA units in Ireland, approximately 8 per million of the population. Whilst the number of units is sufficient, they are not being used optimally. For example, medical card holders do not have access to all diagnostic units as the majority are in private clinics. To improve access, medical card patients at risk of developing osteoporosis should be subsidised by the Health Boards at private clinics. Currently there is limited private health insurance cover for a DEXA scan. VHI do not reimburse their members, BUPA offer partial reimbursement. Additionally, GPs are prevented from setting up osteoporosis diagnostic services because DEXA scanning is not covered as a fee per item under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme. GPs are also penalised for prescribing bone preserving medications as osteoporosis medicines do not have budget neutral status. GPs should be rewarded for preventing fractures not penalised.

Note, a video and workbook on Osteoporosis and its Prevention, which was a joint venture by the Northern Area Health Board, the Department of Education and Science and the Irish Osteoporosis Society, will be part of the school curriculum for secondary schools next year.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) is a worldwide non-governmental organisation dedicated to the fight against osteoporosis. It brings together scientists, physicians, patient societies and corporate partners. Working with its 163 member societies in more than 80 locations, including the EU Member and New Member States and with other healthcare-related organisations around the world, IOF encourages awareness and prevention, access to and reimbursement of early detection for high risk people and reimbursement of proven therapies for people at high risk of fragility fractures.

This meeting gives us the opportunity to raise awareness and discussion about the "Call to Osteoporosis Action". An initiative financially supported by the European Community to encourage implementation of the recommendations produced by the European Commission in 1998 to make osteoporosis and related fractures a governmental healthcare priority.

The Irish Osteoporosis Society (IOS) is an Irish charity dedicated to reducing the instances of osteoporosis and promoting bone health. The IOS provides information to the public and health professionals on all aspects of the disease and offers support to people with osteoporosis and everyone at risk from the disease.

The aims of the Society are:

  • To prevent the growing incidence of osteoporosis
  • To increase awareness of the problem of osteoporosis in Ireland
  • To provide support, advice and information for people suffering from osteoporosis
  • To establish a network of local groups
  • To distribute up-to-date information to doctors and healthcare workers on current methods of prevention and treatment
  • To encourage research into osteoporosis in Ireland

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a leading pharmaceutical and healthcare company in Europe, with over 7% market share. GSK's European region consists of more than 42 countries, and its 15,000 employees in Europe work in a myriad of languages. It is currently the second largest pharmaceutical company in Ireland. Two commercial operations covering prescription medicines and consumer healthcare products are based in Dublin where employment is currently 278. Manufacturing and R&D facilities based in Cork and Dungarvan currently employ 1125 people.

GSK brings innovative medicines to patients to help fight diseases and treat illnesses including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, cancer, psychiatric illnesses and HIV/AIDS, as well as vaccines to help prevent diseases. A strong pipeline of new medicines for the treatment of breast cancer, heart disease and pain underlines the company's determination and commitment to continue delivering innovative medicines to patients in the years to come.


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