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Osteoporosis - Breaking the Back of California's Economy.

BERKELEY, Calif.--(BW HealthWire)--July 14, 1998--California is reaching a crisis point in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, as it poses a serious health threat for one out of two women in the state, and costs an estimated $10 billion a year nationwide -- more than heart failure or asthma.

Estimates from 1995 place the cost of treating fractures resulting from the disease at $494 million in California. Costs are expected to rise significantly in the future, to over $2.1 billion per year in 2015. On July 14, 1998, representatives of the State of California and health advocates will meet in Sacramento to address this urgent issue.

In California, 2.7 million women either have or are at risk for osteoporosis. In addition, 600,000 men have it or are at risk. As "baby boomers" age and advances in medical care further increase their life expectancy, the number of postmenopausal women in California will grow. The growing numbers of women at risk will have a profound impact on the osteoporosis-related costs to taxpayers and health plans.

"This disease should not be taken lightly. Its effect are not cosmetic, but far-reaching. Osteoporosis has serious emotional, physical and financial repercussions for individuals and this state," said Risa Kagan, MD, co-medical director of the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education.

Osteoporosis causes broken bones, disability and death. Hip fractures are the single greatest reason for nursing home stays and accounted for 76.9% of such stays in 1995. It is expected that in the next 20 years, 534,000 Californians over age 45 will suffer a hip fracture. A report by the National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates the current cost of a single hip fracture at $24,677. California women age 45 and over will suffer 149,261 hip, spine and wrist fractures in the year 2015, and the cost of treating these fractures will rise by more than 62% -- to over 2 billion. The cumulative cost over the next 20 years is estimated at almost $24 billion in this state alone.

Besides the costs associated with hospital and nursing home stays, fractures may require other medical services including emergency room visits, doctor office visits, ambulances, diagnostic radiology, medications, physical therapy, home health care, durable medical equipment and orthopedic services.

Some of those costs will be incurred by the state of Medi-Cal program. A 1996 report from the California Department of Health services indicates there are 166,926 women between the ages of 50-64 who are eligible for Medi-Cal. Many of those women are at risk for osteoporosis.

"Obviously, the financial drain to the state Medi-Cal program, health care plans and provider organizations cannot by overlooked. It is a substantial sum now. According to the California Center for Health Improvement's recent research, women are unclear about their treatment and prevention options. Without an all out effort at education and prevention, the costs for treatment of osteoporosis-related fractures will be astronomical in the first few years of the new century," said Joan Hill, president of the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education.

According to Kagan, "This is the time to act -- no matter what your age. Research is providing new ways to treat and prevent this costly disease every day. Women should be sure they know all their options when it comes to treating and preventing osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about calcium supplements, exercise requirements and if you are postmenopausal, hormone replacement therapy and the new designer estrogens called SERMs."

 CONTACT: Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education
 Beverley Tracewell, 510/832-2663

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Publication:Business Wire
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 14, 1998
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