One woman in every four who fractures a hip never comes out of hospital -she dies there. This is a statistic provided by the UK-based National Osteoporosis Society. Worse still, the organisation’s report reveals that one in five women has to suffer three fractures before the diagnosis of their brittle bones -not surprising, given that, after hitting menopause, a woman can lose a whopping one-third of her bone in three years. The latest report from the National Osteoporosis Society emphasises the unnecessary suffering that women are experiencing. It makes painful reading. In a poll of 1,551 people across Britain, including 972 women aged 50-70 who had broken bones, the charity found GPs and hospital staff often fail to follow up those at risk.
In total, one in eight of those who had more than three broken bones said that they had never discussed osteoporosis with the doctors treating their fractures. About 2.3 million women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis, which the poll found incapacitates them for an average of 40 days for every fracture.
It showed broken bones cause significant problems, so more than half find it difficult to drive; almost half have difficulties with housework; almost a third struggle to wash themselves; a quarter find it difficult to cook for themselves; and one in 10 says they are unable to see friends and family. The society said at least half of women and a fifth of men over 50 are at risk of a break.
The trouble is osteoporosis is the “silent disease” because there are no symptoms prior to a fracture. However, once a person has broken a bone, their risk of breaking another -a fragility fracture -increases significantly. Around 300,000 fragility fractures occur every year in the UK, often in the spine. After the first break, one in eight will break another bone within a year and a quarter within five years.
British Medical Journal has accused academics and researchers in international osteoporosis foundations heavily funded by supplement manufacturers of wrongly promoting the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements for treating osteoporosis despite evidence piling up since 2002 that they have no positive effects on osteoporosis in the elderly, and could even be harmful. The article authored by two endocrinologists -Andrew Grey and Mark Bolland from New Zealand’s University of Auckland appeared in the latest issue of the journal.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements are big business with global annual sales of calcium supplements in 2013 amounting to $6 billion and sales of vitamin D in the US touching $748 million in 2012. Annual costs of vitamin D testing in Australia increased from about $800,000 in 2001 to over $71 million in 2010.
The main aim of managing osteoporosis is to prevent fracture. From 2002, evidence from randomised trials began to challenge the notion that calcium or vitamin D supplements alone or in combination safely reduce fracture risk. By 2010 end, of 14 large studies with over 1,000 participants each, nine found no benefit, two found increased fracture risk and three found reduced risk.Among 24 smaller randomised trials, 21 found no effect.