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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 00:12 GMT 01:12 UK
Pharmacies 'to test for brittle bones'
The scheme could be rolled out to other pharmacies
Patients could soon be tested for brittle bone disease at their local pharmacy.

It follows a successful pilot trial to test people over the age of 60 at one pharmacy in north east London.

The screening service is valuable

Hemant Patel
A total of 179 people have been screened for the condition over the past year. Of these 46 were found to be at risk and 36 were found to have osteoporosis.

The results have raised hopes that other pharmacies will soon offer similar screening programmes.

Early detection of osteoporosis enables doctors to prescribe medication to stop the disease progressing.

One in three women and one in 12 men over 50 suffer from osteoporosis.

On-site tests

Under the London scheme, patients over the age of 60 who were concerned about osteoporosis or who staff thought may be at risk of the disease were invited to have a test.

They first filled in a short questionnaire that helped staff to decide whether they were at risk.

They then had a bone density test to determine the strength of their bones and to spot signs of the disease.

Those with osteoporosis were referred to their GP for treatment. Those at risk were given information on how they could reduce their chances of developing the condition by, for example, taking more exercise and increasing their calcium intake.

In the second stage of the scheme, the pharmacist will now also be given responsibility for prescribing medication temporarily to those with the disease.

The move is part of a wider trend to give pharmacists a greater role in treating patients.

'Valuable' service

Hemant Patel who helped to set up the London pilot said the scheme had been successful.

"The fact that 36 patients with osteoporosis were detected in the pilot project shows that the screening service is valuable.

"It is also a good example of co-operation between health care professionals as this project involves pharmacists, GPs and nurses working together for the benefit of the patient."

Osteoporosis affects one in three women and one in 12 men over the age of 50.

Up to 14,000 people a year in the UK die from the disease with many others suffering severe disability.

The findings of the pilot study were presented at the British Pharmaceutical conference in Manchester.

A spokeswoman for the National Osteoporosis Society told BBC News Online: "Pharmacists certainly have an important role to play in raising awareness about bone health and the risks of osteoporosis and they are often well placed to talk to people when they pick up their prescriptions.

"However, this is a pilot project and it would be unlikely that the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis could be taken out of the GP's surgery.

"Osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment is not always straightforward and patients would be well advised to talk to their family doctor who knows their medical history."

But she added: "The NOS is now very keen to hear more about this pilot project and how it is intended to roll the service out to the wider community."

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

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