Report on Osteoporosis-Related Bone Fractures Reveals High Burden on Women and Society



By Shivani Chinnappan, Programs Coordinator

Nearly 50% of women over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak. Women account for 80% of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis and they experience bone loss at an earlier age than men in part due to the sharp drop in estrogen during menopause.

Although osteoporosis affects mainly affects older women, efforts to improve bone health and prevent this condition should be considered across a woman’s lifespan. Bone health can be affected by modifiable factors such as diet, physical activity, and tobacco and alcohol use. In addition, women with certain health conditions — including endocrine and hormonal diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, autoimmune conditions, certain cancers, eating disorders, and depression — are at higher risk for osteoporosis. Implementing broader efforts around the prevention of osteoporosis and treatment of related fractures would have a major impact not only on women’s quality of life, but on societal burden and costs associated with the condition.

In advance of National Osteoporosis Month in May, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) released a report on the clinical and cost burden of fractures associated with osteoporosis in the Medicare population. The report revealed that about 1.8 million Medicare beneficiaries suffered approximately 2.1 million osteoporotic fractures in 2016, with women beneficiaries in the Medicare fee-for-service population experiencing a 76% higher rate of osteoporotic fracture than men.

Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries died from complications within 12 months after an osteoporotic fracture — and more than 60% were women, the report said. In addition, women are at high risk for subsequent fractures, with research showing about 10% of female Medicare beneficiaries had another fracture within 12 months after an initial incident, 18% within 2 years, and 31% within 5 years.

A significant amount of injury could be prevented and Medicare costs from osteoporotic fractures could be reduced with proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. At an NOF briefing on the report, a panel of experts emphasized that while effective diagnostic and treatment tools are available, there is a lack of widespread awareness about them as well as clinical and coverage challenges.

Preventing 20% of subsequent fractures in Medicare FFS beneficiaries could have saved $1.1 billion in 2016. In its policy recommendations, the NOF urges making changes to Medicare payments to incentivize the widespread use of care models designed to prevent secondary fractures in beneficiaries who have already suffered an osteoporosis-related fracture.

Although Medicare will pay for high-quality bone-density tests to identify those who are at risk of bone fractures, only 9% of women are assessed with this test shortly after a new fracture. The NOF noted that during the past five years Medicare payment rates for bone density tests have been cut by 70% and that the diagnosis of osteoporosis in older women has declined by 18%. As such, the NOF recommends these cuts to Medicare payment rates be reversed.

Finally, the NOF also suggests that Congress provide funding for a national education initiative aimed at reducing fractures among older Americans.  Panelist Kathleen Cameron, senior director at the National Council on Aging, pointed to the Million Hearts initiative, co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), as a model that could be used for bone health. “That campaign has a very clear goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes in 5 years,” she said. “I would love to see something like that around fracture and falls prevention.”

The panel noted the need for more patient advocates to share their stories, which can help reframe osteoporosis and bone fractures as hurdles that can be overcome with the proper lifestyle adjustments and health care. Panelist JoAnne DeVargas, an NOF volunteer, explained that she is both a caretaker and a patient herself — her mother has osteoporosis and arthritis and DeVargas was diagnosed with osteopenia in her 40s. In regard to advocacy, she said: “The more you get the word out, the more you can disseminate how to navigate [treatment] and not be hurt by the roadblocks that might be in your path.”

Collection of key demographic and geography-based data around osteoporosis, osteoporotic fractures, and related health care costs will continue to be critical for developing and recommending targeted policy change. As a part of the Coalition to Strengthen Bone Health, SWHR is working with NOF and other partners to raise awareness of the importance of bone health across the lifespan and the impact of osteoporosis and bone fractures, and to advance policy solutions to improve bone health, so that women are prepared and empowered in their health care throughout their lives.

To view the report summary click here, for the panel discussion video click here, and for a summary infographic click here. SWHR blog content on bone health is supported by a sponsorship from Amgen. SWHR maintains editorial control and independence over blog content.

By Shivani Chinnappan, Programs Coordinator

Nearly 50% of women over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak. Women account for 80% of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis and they experience bone loss at an earlier age than men in part due to the sharp drop in estrogen during menopause.

Although osteoporosis affects mainly affects older women, efforts to improve bone health and prevent this condition should be considered across a woman’s lifespan. Bone health can be affected by modifiable factors such as diet, physical activity, and tobacco and alcohol use. In addition, women with certain health conditions — including endocrine and hormonal diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, autoimmune conditions, certain cancers, eating disorders, and depression — are at higher risk for osteoporosis. Implementing broader efforts around the prevention of osteoporosis and treatment of related fractures would have a major impact not only on women’s quality of life, but on societal burden and costs associated with the condition.

In advance of National Osteoporosis Month in May, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) released a report on the clinical and cost burden of fractures associated with osteoporosis in the Medicare population. The report revealed that about 1.8 million Medicare beneficiaries suffered approximately 2.1 million osteoporotic fractures in 2016, with women beneficiaries in the Medicare fee-for-service population experiencing a 76% higher rate of osteoporotic fracture than men.

Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries died from complications within 12 months after an osteoporotic fracture — and more than 60% were women, the report said. In addition, women are at high risk for subsequent fractures, with research showing about 10% of female Medicare beneficiaries had another fracture within 12 months after an initial incident, 18% within 2 years, and 31% within 5 years.

A significant amount of injury could be prevented and Medicare costs from osteoporotic fractures could be reduced with proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. At an NOF briefing on the report, a panel of experts emphasized that while effective diagnostic and treatment tools are available, there is a lack of widespread awareness about them as well as clinical and coverage challenges.

Preventing 20% of subsequent fractures in Medicare FFS beneficiaries could have saved $1.1 billion in 2016. In its policy recommendations, the NOF urges making changes to Medicare payments to incentivize the widespread use of care models designed to prevent secondary fractures in beneficiaries who have already suffered an osteoporosis-related fracture.

Although Medicare will pay for high-quality bone-density tests to identify those who are at risk of bone fractures, only 9% of women are assessed with this test shortly after a new fracture. The NOF noted that during the past five years Medicare payment rates for bone density tests have been cut by 70% and that the diagnosis of osteoporosis in older women has declined by 18%. As such, the NOF recommends these cuts to Medicare payment rates be reversed.

Finally, the NOF also suggests that Congress provide funding for a national education initiative aimed at reducing fractures among older Americans.  Panelist Kathleen Cameron, senior director at the National Council on Aging, pointed to the Million Hearts initiative, co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), as a model that could be used for bone health. “That campaign has a very clear goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes in 5 years,” she said. “I would love to see something like that around fracture and falls prevention.”

The panel noted the need for more patient advocates to share their stories, which can help reframe osteoporosis and bone fractures as hurdles that can be overcome with the proper lifestyle adjustments and health care. Panelist JoAnne DeVargas, an NOF volunteer, explained that she is both a caretaker and a patient herself — her mother has osteoporosis and arthritis and DeVargas was diagnosed with osteopenia in her 40s. In regard to advocacy, she said: “The more you get the word out, the more you can disseminate how to navigate [treatment] and not be hurt by the roadblocks that might be in your path.”

Collection of key demographic and geography-based data around osteoporosis, osteoporotic fractures, and related health care costs will continue to be critical for developing and recommending targeted policy change. As a part of the Coalition to Strengthen Bone Health, SWHR is working with NOF and other partners to raise awareness of the importance of bone health across the lifespan and the impact of osteoporosis and bone fractures, and to advance policy solutions to improve bone health, so that women are prepared and empowered in their health care throughout their lives.

To view the report summary click here, for the panel discussion video click here, and for a summary infographic click here. SWHR blog content on bone health is supported by a sponsorship from Amgen. SWHR maintains editorial control and independence over blog content.