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Wednesday, March 16, 2000

Osteoporosis is a national public health priority

Affects more than 200 million worldwide

A joint Position Statement of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the National Osteoporosis Foundation

Osteoporosis is a widespread disease characterized by decreased bone mass and poor bone quality, which leads to increased numbers of fractures typically of the hip, spine and wrist. Osteoporosis is a global public health problem currently affecting more than 200 million people worldwide.1

In the United States alone, 10 million already have the disease and 18 million are at risk, 80 percent of whom are women.2 Although the incidence of osteoporotic fractures among African American and Hispanic women is less than that of Caucasian and Asian women, their risk is still significant. Each year, 1.5 million fractures are attributed to osteoporosis, including 350,000 hip fractures.3, 4 Seventy percent of those suffering from osteoporosis do not return to previous pre-injury status. The acute and long-term medical care expenses associated with these fractures costs the nation an estimated $10 billion - $18 billion.4 Due to the dramatic growth of the elderly population and the rise in the incidence of fractures at earlier ages, osteoporosis has become a major public health problem of epidemic proportions.

Osteoporosis can be classified into two broad categories: primary and secondary osteoporosis.5

Primary osteoporosis is, by far, the most common form of the disease and includes:

Secondary osteoporosis is a disease in which an identifiable agent or disease process causes loss of bone tissue and includes: Osteoporosis reflects the inadequate accumulation of bone during growth and maturation, excessive losses thereafter, or both. Although knowledge of the causes of osteoporosis is incomplete, genetic, endocrine and life style factors are contributory4. Since today's effective and safe treatments primarily preserve existing bone tissue, prevention, which involves maximizing maturational gains in bone density and minimizing post-maturity losses, emerges as the crucial current disease prevention strategy.4

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the National Osteoporosis Foundation believe that increased federal funding for research and education programs are essential to reduce the growth rate of osteoporotic fractures.

Based upon current scientific knowledge about osteoporosis, it is further believed such education programs should include information about:

The care for patients with established osteoporosis should include: early diagnosis of potentially treatable secondary types of osteoporosis, protection against further bone loss by utilizing medications such as estrogen, SERMs, bisphosphonates and calcitonin, exercise and activity programs, and injury prevention strategies.

While there is much to be learned about the causes of osteoporosis, there is sufficient current knowledge to undertake therapeutic action today. Estrogen, bisphosphonates, intranasal calcitonin and SERMs provide a wide range of therapeutic choices for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Effective regimens that stimulate bone formation will require increased federal research support.

To minimize future predicted costs, morbidity, and mortality from increasing numbers of osteoporotic fractures in our rapidly aging population, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommend that osteoporosis should become a national public health priority6. While current research demonstrates that pharmacological therapies can decrease the risk of fractures, new research is required to evaluate the role of each of our current therapies and to allow us to develop new therapeutic agents that can eliminate the underlying skeletal diseases.


  1. Chestnut, CH III: Osteoporosis: A world-wide problem, in Christiansen C, Overgaard K (eds): Osteoporosis 1990. Kobenhavn K, Denmark, Osteopress ApS, 1990, pp 33-35.
  2. National Osteoporosis Foundation, "1996 and 2015 Osteoporosis Prevalence Figures. State by State Prevalence Report," 1997.
  3. Brody, JA: Prospects for an aging population, Nature 1985; 315:463-466.
  4. Riggs, BL, Melton, LJ III: The prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. New Engl J Med, 1992; 327:620-627.
  5. Riggs, BL, Melton LJ III: Evidence for two distinct syndromes of involuntional osteoporosis. Am. J. Med 1983;75:899-901.
  6. Lane, JM, Nydick M Osteoporosis:Current Modes of Prevention and Treatment. JAAOS Vol.7:1,1931,1999
February 1993
Revised 1999
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
National Osteoporosis Foundation

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Last modified 23/February/2000 by IS