IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis

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MAY 10, 2002

Lisboa Congress Center, Portugal

Osteoporosis is undertreated in Europe, experts conclude

Fewer than half of women with osteoporosis in France, U.K., Germany, Italy and Spain are diagnosed

(LISBON, May 10, 2002) – Current European guidelines for identifying and treating patients with osteoporosis may neglect a large segment of the at-risk population, according to experts presenting at the IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis, being held May 10-14 in Lisbon, Portugal.

The burden of osteoporotic fractures is increasing worldwide due to the aging world population and, in some regions of the world, to an increase in age-specific rates of fracture. In other words, more hip fractures are reported among elderly women and men today than the same number of individuals a generation ago, says Dr. John Kanis of the Centre for Metabolic Bone Diseases, University of Sheffield Medical School, U.K. "A lot of advances have been made in osteoporosis by diagnosis and treatment, but it's not a perfect world. Current guidelines are conservative," adds Kanis. With a better current understanding of both the causes and the treatment of osteoporosis, new intervention strategies should be devised that target not only high-risk patients, as is currently the norm, but rather prevent future bone fractures among a broader segment of the population. In order to do so, new guidelines for detecting patients with bone loss are also required.

In contrast to current diagnostic methods, which rely heavily on measurements of bone mineral density (BMD), Kanis recommends the use of a case-finding approach, in which patients identified with given clinical risk factors (age, family or personal history of hip fracture, high rate of bone turnover, low body mass index or neuromuscular incompetence) are then recommended for BMD assessment. This approach is expected to identify a greater number of at-risk patients than BMD testing alone, which has low sensitivity and does not correlate accurately with risk of bone fracture. Using current diagnostic standards, less than half of women with osteoporosis in countries such as France, the U.K., Germany, Italy and Spain are diagnosed.

While diagnostic thresholds should be lowered across the board, intervention thresholds vary according to health economic considerations and local risk factors, which are country-specific. "Adding in additional risk factors (family history, previous fractures, etc.) to quantify risk can help devise individual thresholds", says Kanis. Fracture risk is calculated as the probability of a bone fracture over a relatively long time period (e.g., 10 years) and patients identified as being at high risk are then selected carefully for treatment. Using this model, it is possible to maintain cost-effectiveness while at the same time enfranchising a larger segment of the population at risk from osteoporosis.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) is a worldwide organization dedicated to the fight against osteoporosis around the world. It brings together scientists, physicians, patient societies and corporate partners. Working hand in hand with its 139 member societies in 71 countries and other healthcare-related organizations around the world, IOF encourages awareness and prevention, early detection and improved treatment of osteoporosis.

The IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis is being held May 10-14, 2002 in Lisbon, Portugal. Some 5,000 participants are expected for the congress, expected to be the largest gathering ever of osteoporosis specialists from around the world. Abstracts from the congress are published in a supplementary volume of the journal Osteoporosis International. For more information visit the congress website:

Program abstracts can be accessed on:

IOF website:

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