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With one fall, life can change for someone with osteoporosis. Years ago, the disease was only diagnosed when someone broke a bone. But today, new screening methods are helping to diagnose osteoporosis earlier. And advances in science are enabling researchers to explore new pathways for the prevention and treatment of the disease.

But let’s put the disease into perspective – osteoporosis is quite common. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), nearly 54 million people in the United States have either osteoporosis or low bone density, and there are 2 million osteoporosis-related fractures reported every year. Osteoporosis causes loss of bone mass and deterioration of bone structure, leading to fragile and easily fractured bones. And while osteoporosis primarily affects women, men are also at risk. In fact, half of women and a quarter of men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to the disease.

Osteoporosis has a significant impact on patients and is thought to have a strong genetic component, with the disease often occurring among several members of a family. Take C. Berdon Lawrence for example.

“My mother and aunt were diagnosed with severe osteoporosis and fractures, and I learned that I, too, was at high risk for fracture,” Lawrence said. Innovative treatments have provided Lawrence some hope for his own future with the disease.

Now an osteoporosis patient himself, Lawrence serves as a NOF trustee and is living an active life thanks to advances in osteoporosis therapy.

“After active treatment for the past 15 years, I am confident that I will be able to participate in physically demanding activities for years to come,” he said.

And while there is more work to be done, he is hopeful.

Today, biopharmaceutical research companies are working to deliver on the promise of the science with 9 medicines currently in development for the treatment of osteoporosis, bringing patients like Lawrence more hope than ever before – especially as the need for new treatments has never been greater.

For example, in patients with osteoporosis, older bone is resorbed faster than newer bone is formed, resulting in decreased bone density and bone loss. Some of the medicines in the development pipeline use novel approaches to correct this imbalance, and every year, researchers are able to take advantage of our increasing understanding of the disease.

As the aging American population increases, the incidence of osteoporosis is expected to rise, as well. Experts predict that the number of people with osteoporosis will rise from 12 million people in 2010 to 14 million by 2020 if additional efforts are not made to prevent and treat the disease.1 By 2025, it is predicted that osteoporosis will cause about three million bone fractures and cost the health care system more than $25 billion each year.1

What’s next? Ongoing research is turning our old understanding of osteoporosis on its head with advances in science driving toward game-changing treatments, giving patients with osteoporosis hope for longer, healthier lives.

“We hope and believe in a world where no older citizen has to experience an osteoporosis-related fracture,” said Robert F. Gagel, M.D. and NOF president. He added that with continued development of pharmacologic agents, “this will be possible.”

Learn more here about how the biopharmaceutical industry is fighting disease.

1 National Osteoporosis Foundation