By Lorraine Fitzpatrick, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Radius Health, Inc.
The urgency to properly treat a heart attack, breast cancer, or stroke patient is unquestionable, and something that is widely recognized by our society — but how many people realize that in the United States, osteoporosis-related fractures caused women aged 55 and older more hospitalizations (from 2000-2011) than any of these conditions?[i]
Osteoporosis affects more than 8 million women in the U.S. over the age of 50,[ii] and nearly 1 in 2 women in this age group will have a fragility fracture (or low-impact fracture that is often the result of a fall from standing height or lower) in her remaining lifetime.[iii] Any woman who has an osteoporosis fracture is at high risk of a subsequent fracture, especially within the next year[iv] — but are we diagnosing and treating these patients as soon as possible to help avoid a second fracture in the same way that we would immediately intervene with a heart attack or stroke patient?
Despite scientific progress made over the past decade in the understanding of osteoporosis and its treatment, there is still more we can do to help postmenopausal women make the connection between bone breaks and osteoporosis. In fact, in an online survey of 1,012 postmenopausal American women aged 50 and older, conducted on behalf of Radius Health in partnership with HealthyWomen and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a vast majority — 82% — of participants did not identify bone fractures as a possible risk factor for osteoporosis.[v]
Whether people fear the disease and associate it with aging, or they are afraid or uncertain about treatment options,[vi] we can and must do better in the recognition and management of osteoporosis. We must fight the lack of awareness and treatment inertia around the disease, and move the space from one of complacency to one of urgency. We must enable women to understand their health risk factors and treatment options, and provide them with the right information to live healthy lives as they age. We must encourage active and ongoing dialogue between patients and physicians, which can help in successfully managing osteoporosis, a chronic and progressive disease.
Furthermore, we must make this information and treatment options accessible to the women who need them.
Equipping women with knowledge about osteoporosis and their risk factors for the disease can start in a multitude of places. Reaching women through their health care providers (including endocrinologists, rheumatologists, OB/GYNs, orthopedic surgeons and primary care physicians), professional organizations, and advocacy groups can help to close the diagnosis and treatment gaps. Promoting awareness can help women and their families recognize the seriousness of osteoporosis and help address this major health risk. We hope this will in turn encourage them to pass down this knowledge from generation to generation.
The second need is for companies to take a responsible pricing approach by considering factors such as the unmet need, response rates to existing therapies, total cost of care, affordability at the patient level, quality of care, and the reduction in overall costs to the patient and the health care system. At Radius Health, we believe that every postmenopausal woman with osteoporosis who experiences a fragility fracture or who is at risk of fracturing deserves to be diagnosed, treated and have access to affordable medicines. We’re continuing to invest resources to explore ways to make sure our medicines are cost effective for all parties involved.
It’s time to rethink osteoporosis. By overcoming the inertia, creating an open patient-doctor dialogue about risk factors and helping to ensure accessibility to appropriate treatments, we will continue to move towards our ultimate goal of helping people better understand their health and actions they can take. Healthcare providers can learn more about osteoporosis and its risks here.
[i] Singer A, Exuzides A, Spangler L, et al. Burden of illness for osteoporotic fractures compared with other serious diseases among postmenopausal women in the United States. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Jan;90(1):53-62.
[ii] Wright N, Looker A, Saag K, et al. The recent prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States based on bone mineral density at the femoral neck or lumbar spine. J Bone Miner Res. 2014 Nov;29(11):2520-6.
[iii] National Osteoporosis Foundation. Osteoporosis Fast Facts. Available at: https://cdn.nof.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Osteoporosis-Fast-Facts.pdf. Accessed October 16, 2017.
[iv] Harvey NC, Johansson H, Siggeirsdottir K, et al. Imminent risk of major osteoporotic fracture after fracture. Osteoporos Int. 2017 Mar; 28(3): 775–780.
[v] Results from online survey conducted from March 31 – April 17, 2017 by Harris Poll on behalf of Radius Health in partnership with HealthyWomen and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of 1,012 postmenopausal women living in the U.S. aged 50+.
[vi] Khosla S, Shane E. A crisis in treatment of osteoporosis. J Bone Miner Res. 2016 Aug;31(8):1485-7