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Wednesday, June 10, 1998 Published at 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK

Health: Latest News

Bone disease could cripple health budgets

Osteoporosis patients may need hip replacements

Europe's health services could be financially crippled by the cost of treating the brittle bone disease osteoporosis, according to a new report.

Experts warn the disease - which leaves sufferers at risk of hip and spine fractures, deformities and chronic pain - will become far more widespread as people live longer.

They predict one in eight Europeans over 50 will suffer a spine fracture, and one in three women, and one in nine men over 80 will experience a hip fracture because of osteoporosis.

Annual hip fractures in the EU are expected to more than double over the next 50 years - from 414,000 to 972,000.

[ image: Osteoporosis can lead to disability]
Osteoporosis can lead to disability
Osteoporosis can be prevented or reversed through relatively simple treatments.

But the report, prepared by medical experts for the European Commission with support from the European Foundation for Osteoporosis (EFFO), says governments and healthcare providers have given it a low priority.

"There has been considerable progress in the understanding of the causes, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis," the report says.

"However, the disease is often neglected and many individuals...remain undiagnosed and untreated."

The study calls on the 15 EU countries to give priority to monitoring osteoporosis and increasing public awareness about how to prevent and treat it through diet, exercise and drugs.

Many women hit

The "brittle bone disease" hits many women when they reach the menopause and their bodies start producing less oestrogen, although men can suffer too.

Dr Steven Boonen, clinical co-ordinator of Belgium's Leuven University Centre for Metabolic Bone Disease, said: "Prevention is very important even in old age.

"It's never too late to prevent fractures of the hip."

The report prescribed a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, physical activity during childhood and adolescence, exercise to improve muscle tone and reduce pain of sufferers, hip protectors and early detection of bone loss.

It also highlighted a range of medications available to fight osteoporosis -- including hormone replacement therapy, oestrogen derivatives and a new generation of drugs known as "selective oestrogen receptor modulators" (SERM).

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