In May 2024, the US Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF) celebrates Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, in which bone health advocates spotlight the critical needs of individuals living with osteoporosis. Emphasising the urgency of effective treatment, the annual observance also aims to raise awareness about osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures. Advocates call for improved education, research and healthcare strategies to address this widespread yet often overlooked disease. By focusing on prevention, early detection and innovative treatments, the goal is to enhance the quality of life for millions affected by osteoporosis and reduce the associated burden on public healthcare systems.

Osteoporosis is the prevailing metabolic bone disorder globally, and the primary cause of fragility fractures. It manifests as a systemic skeletal condition characterised by reduced bone mass and deterioration of bone structure, increasing susceptibility to fractures, particularly in the spine, hip, distal forearm and proximal humerus. These fractures significantly contribute to morbidity, often requiring prolonged recovery and full-time care for many patients. Hip fractures in particular are associated with increased mortality rates. Despite its impact, osteoporosis is often overlooked as the disease often presents itself only after a fracture, and as such, it is deemed a “silent disease”.

The development of osteoporosis typically extends several years before resulting in a fracture which prompts medical attention. Notably, more than two-thirds of vertebral fractures occur without pain, complicating early detection. Prominent symptoms include back pain from fractured vertebrae, which can lead to visible deformity or reduced mobility. The condition can lead to stooped posture, known as kyphosis, as vertebral fractures cause the spine to collapse and bend forward, further impacting the individual’s physical functionality and quality of life.

A major highlight of Osteoporosis Prevention and Awareness Month 2024 was the “Freedom from Fractures” webinar, which emphasised the importance of maintaining strong bones to avoid fractures, especially in older adults. Participants learned how to use the BHOF Fracture Risk Calculator to assess personal risk and discuss strategies for fall prevention. This webinar aimed to educate attendees on achieving optimal bone health at any age, helping individuals take proactive steps to protect their independence and overall well-being.

The US Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health also hosted a pivotal webinar: “Osteoporosis: A Perspective for 2024”. This provided a comprehensive overview of osteoporosis, focusing on postmenopausal women who are at higher risk, underscoring the asymptomatic nature of osteoporosis until fractures occur, and highlighting how bone health can be improved, for example through lifestyle changes such as improved nutrition.

The “Healthy Bones for Life” programme was another key event that took place. This session covered the fundamentals of bone health, osteoporosis and the critical phases of bone development throughout life. Participants learned about preventing bone loss, fracture prevention techniques, and the importance of bone-safe exercises and nutrition. The programme provided a thorough introduction to maintaining healthy bones, equipping attendees with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

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These efforts are critical to improving patient education, a key unmet need identified by GlobalData. Several key opinion leaders (KOLs) interviewed by GlobalData reported poor patient education on osteoporosis as a significant problem facing healthcare systems. A top US KOL stated: “There are a lot of women who are off therapy, who aren’t getting tested and treated, who are not adhering, who are scared of their drugs.” A French KOL similarly reported: “There is a tremendous gap between what should be done, and what is currently done.”

The events of BHOF Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month underlined the critical need for enhanced patient awareness and proactive healthcare measures to combat osteoporosis. These efforts emphasised the need for pharmaceutical companies and healthcare systems to develop large-scale programmes aimed at improving patient education. By prioritising early detection, these initiatives can prevent severe complications associated with advanced osteoporosis. A concerted effort in awareness and prevention improves patient outcomes and reduces the long-term healthcare burden of this disease. Through collaborative and innovative approaches, significant strides can be made to mitigate the impact of osteoporosis and relieve pressure on public health services.