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Few Get Osteoporosis Drugs After Falls

Study:Osteoporosis Treatment Lacking Among Those at Highest Risk
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WebMD Health News

Oct. 2, 2003 -- As few as one in five people who have suffered a hip or wrist fracture because of osteoporosis are getting the treatment they need to help prevent future broken bones.

A new study shows only 22% of elderly men and women who had a major bone fracture filled a prescription for an osteoporosis drug within six months after their injury.

Researchers say that's despite the fact that people who have suffered one fracture from osteoporosis are up to five times more likely so suffer another one, and use of osteoporosis drugs can reduce that risk of by as much as 60%.

"Given the availability of effective medications, it seems natural that when patients who have sustained a fracture discuss treatment with their physician, an osteoporosis therapy would be prescribed, " says researcher Daniel Solomon, MD, MPH, a rheumatologist and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in a news release. "Surprisingly, we found that the vast majority of patients were not taking these medications in the six months after a hip or wrist fracture, two common fractures related to osteoporosis."

Researchers say more than 550,000 hip and wrist fractures occur each year, and they're a leading cause of hospitalization and death in the elderly.

Too Few Get Proper Osteoporosis Treatment

In the study, published in the October issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers looked at 21,912 elderly men and women who had either a hip or wrist fracture.

In 1995, only 6% of these patients filled a prescription for an osteoporosis drug within six months after their injury, but that number grew to 22% by 2000.

Although the overall use of osteoporosis drugs increased steadily during this five-year period, researchers say the increase in the use of these drugs in the six months before a fracture compared with the six months following a fracture was still small, averaging about 3%.

"It appears that a first-time fracture did not signal a red flag to physicians that their patient was at high risk for another osteoporosis-related fracture," says Solomon. "Treatment of these patients needs to be a top priority for physicians, especially with the dramatic growth in our aging population."

The study showed that younger patients, women, and whites were more likely to use an osteoporosis drug than others, and use of an osteoporosis drug before a fracture was the strongest predictor of whether or not they used one after a fracture.

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