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New research reveals why millions of women across Europe may be putting themselves at risk of fracture

85 per cent of doctors report osteoporosis patients* stop treatment too early to get full benefit – communication gap between doctors and patients threatens effectiveness of long-term treatment

8 June 2005, Vienna: A new pan-European survey, launched today by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), reveals that while women with osteoporosis do recognise the seriousness of their condition, a large number stop taking their bone-saving medication – potentially because they don’t recognise the real benefits that treatment offers.1

View complete survey report

Eighty five per cent of doctors questioned had prescribed a bisphosphonate, the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis treatment, to a patient who subsequently stopped taking it.1 Stopping treatment leaves patients at greater risk of fracture and associated disability, reduced independence and increased mortality. Worryingly, 70 per cent of doctors acknowledge that they do not know why so many patients spontaneously stop taking their bisphosphonate medication.1

This major new survey aimed to understand the reasons why women with osteoporosis do not stay on treatment. It showed that 34 per cent of women interviewed either didn’t know what the benefits of their medication were or wrongly thought there were no benefits at all.1 Drawbacks of treatment identified by women were predominantly related to inconvenience and side effects.1

“This is extremely concerning” said Jean-Yves Reginster, Professor of Epidemiology, Public Health and Health Economics at the University of Liege, Belgium. “If we are going to have an impact on the overall burden of osteoporosis it is vital that our patients stay on therapy long term. This survey shows us that while 90 per cent of women view osteoporosis as a serious condition they don’t fully appreciate all the benefits of their treatment.1

The survey, carried out by IPSOS Health, highlighted some major communication gaps between doctors and the patients they treat. Three-fifths of patients questioned felt that focussing on the positive outcomes of treatment – such as knowing they were doing something to help themselves – provided the greatest motivation for continuing their therapy.1 Conversely, 41 per cent of physicians focussed on negative motivators such as fear, believing the best way to motivate patients to continue on treatment is to explain or remind them about the risks and complications of fracture if they abandon treatment.1 A key learning from this research, therefore, is that providing patients with positive encouragement and reasons for staying on therapy may provide greater motivation than focussing on the negative outcomes of non-adherence.

In addition, while doctors agree on the importance of long term treatment and 82 per cent said they told patients to stay on therapy for a minimum of 1– 2 years, just over half of patients could not recall being told how long they should continue their medication.1

The survey shows that where doctors and patients do agree is in relation to how treatments could be improved. Eight out of 10 doctors believe improvements in osteoporosis treatment are necessary for effective disease management and three-quarters of those interviewed felt that altering the dosing frequency of bisphosphonates would have a strong influence on adherence.1 Patients concur, citing reduced side effects and having to take treatment less often as the top two things they think would improve adherence.1

*Patients taking bisphosphonate treatment.

Dr. Daniel Navid, Chief Executive Officer of the IOF, commented: “This report highlights some clear areas for improvement in osteoporosis management. Doctors need to better understand the concerns and motivations of their patients to improve dialogue and the quality of the consultation. While our ultimate aim is to prevent osteoporotic fractures in the first place, we encourage physicians and patients to communicate more effectively to ensure that treatment is as effective as possible.”


Contact for further information on the survey:
Emma Gibb
Phone: +44 (0) 20 8822 6880

IOF Contact:
Paul Spencer Sochaczewski
Head of Communications
IOF-International Osteoporosis Foundation
Phone: +41 22 994-0100

Notes to Editors

The research, conducted in January – April 2005, among 500 physicians and 500 osteoporosis patients (who were currently taking, or had taken, a bisphosphonate) across five countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) – sought to understand the causes behind the lack of patient adherence to bisphosphonate treatments, and potential ways in which this problem can be addressed.

About the International Osteoporosis Foundation

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) is a worldwide organization dedicated to the fight against osteoporosis. It brings together scientists, physicians, patient societies and corporate partners. Working with its 170 member societies in 84 locations, and other healthcare-related organizations around the world, IOF encourages awareness and prevention, early detection and improved treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, in which the bones become porous and break easily, is one of the world’s most common and debilitating diseases. The result: pain, loss of movement, inability to perform daily chores, and in many cases, death. One out of three women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will one out of five men. Unfortunately, screening for people at risk is far from being a standard practice. Osteoporosis can, to a certain extent, be prevented, it can be easily diagnosed and effective treatments are available.

Find out if you are at risk, take the IOF One Minute Risk Test at:

There are many medically-proven treatments for osteoporosis. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) does not endorse or recommend any specific treatment. Such decisions must be made by the patient and the physician.

The Adherence Gap: Why Osteoporosis Patients Don’t Continue With Treatment was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Roche and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).


1 IPSOS Health, European Survey of Physicians and Women with Osteoporosis, January – April 2005. Sponsored by Roche/GSK

Key Country Specific Results

85% of all physicians interviewed had a patient discontinue their bisphosphonate therapy


7 out of 10 physicians questioned admit to not knowing why so many patients spontaneously stop taking their bisphosphonate medication


60% of physicians surveyed believe that bisphosphonate treatment should last for at least 3–5 years


...and yet 51% of patients said that they were not told for how long they should continue their medication


34% of patients questioned either didn’t know what the benefits of their tablets were, or wrongly thought there were no benefits at all


Nine out of 10 patients surveyed acknowledged that osteoporosis is a serious disease


...along with a similar proportion of physicians


Three–fifths of patients questioned felt that focussing on the positive outcomes of treatment provided the greatest motivation for continuing their therapy


41 per cent of physicians believe the best way to motivate patients to continue on treatment is to explain or remind them about the risks and complications of fracture if they abandon treatment


Three–quarters of physicians felt that altering the dosing frequency would have a strong influence on adherence because of the greater convenience it would offer


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