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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
'Doctors too slow on brittle bone disease'
Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures
Bone loss caused by osteoporosis is not being detected early enough to protect women from fractures, say researchers.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) found that despite huge advances in the understanding of the disease, the care of post-menopausal women at risk of the disease was not good enough.

After conducting an international survey, the IOF concluded that while physicians recognise the importance of preventing a first fracture in post-menopausal women, they were often did not intervene in time to prevent broken bones.

Treatment is inadequate and falls short of its goal

Dr Pierre Delmas, International Osteoporosis Foundation

Dr Pierre Delmas, IOF president, said: "We have made substantial progress in terms of identifying risk factors, bringing to market new technologies to aid diagnosis, and developing medicines that fight osteoporosis.

"But this survey clearly illustrates that current patient-doctor communication about osteoporosis prevention and treatment is inadequate and falls short of its goal."

Risks not known

They survey, of 1,071 physicians and 559 osteoporosis sufferers from 11 countries, found that many women appear to be unaware, even after consulting a doctor, just how much at risk they are, and consequently are doing little to protect their bones.

One in two postmenopausal women will be affected by osteoporosis during her lifetime.

However, the survey found that 85% did not believe they were personally at risk of developing the disease.

And four out of five of the women suffering from osteoporosis said they were not aware of the risk factors prior to diagnosis.

A third of these women reported that they were not taking medication to prevent fractures related to the disease.

Two-thirds of doctors said they routinely checked patients who were at risk of developing osteoporosis.

But only 20% of women recalled being screened for the disease.

And just 2% of women who talked about osteoporosis with their doctors recalled discussing prescription medications.

In addition, doctors often screened for osteoporosis or prescribed medication only after evidence that a fracture exists.

Unaccesible equipment

Doctors said they were often unable to access bone mineral density testing equipment.

They also said that many post-menopausal women failed to contact them early enough.

Some said patients refused preventative and treatment medications because they were concerned about their safety.

Mary Anderson, IOF executive director, called for action to improve osteoporosis prevention and care.

She said: "This report challenges women, their healthcare providers and government health authorities to make the identification of bone loss a top priority.

"Minimising fracture risk will result in fewer hospitalisations among postmenopausal women and reduced long-term costs associated with osteoporosis."

Osteoporosis reduces the density and quality of bone, leading to weakness of the skeleton and increased risk of fracture.

The bones most at risk are the vertebrae, wrist, hip and pelvis.

Experts have warned that, with an ageing population, osteoporosis could place a serious strain on health budgets throughout the world.

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