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Fighting Asia Pacific's growing fragility fracture epidemic
Multi-stakeholder approach needed to address preventable fragility fractures in rapidly aging Asia Pacific: new Economist Intelligence Unit report.

A coordinated approach by a broad range of stakeholders across Asia Pacific is needed to address the growing epidemic of fragility fractures and osteoporosis and their devastating impact, according to a report issued by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) today. Despite extended life expectancies, many seniors are not healthier than their parents were at the same age, a trend that reflects widespread loss of independence and premature confinement to aged care facilities later in life.

Approximately one in four patients who sustain a fragility fracture die within a year, and less than half of those who survive regain their previous levels of function.Between 10 and 20 percent of people who sustain a hip fracture will be admitted to a care home in the year following fracture.

The release of the EIU Demystifying Ageing: Lifting the Burden of Fragility Fractures and Osteoporosis in Asia Pacific report, sponsored by Amgen, cites fragility fractures and their underlying, chronic cause, osteoporosis, as a major public health challenge in the region. The report found that these conditions pose a significant resource and cost burden on health systems and economies, equating to an average of 19 percent of GDP per capita. Weak bones and fragility fractures are not a natural process of aging as commonly believed, but rather, a disease that is both preventable, and treatable.

By 2050, estimates suggest half of the world's hip fractures will occur in Asia, the world's fastest aging region. Once a patient suffers a fragility fracture, his or her risk of a future fracture increases up to 10 times. Despite the significant impact, nearly 80 percent of patients who experience fragility fractures remain undiagnosed and untreated for osteoporosis.

The EIU report found awareness of, and attention to, fragility fractures and osteoporosis were inconsistent among the eight economies studied. Despite the availability of effective interventions and proven care models, such as Fracture Liaison Services (FLS) and medical therapies, post-fragility fracture treatment for osteoporosis was described as the exception rather than the rule.

"Fractures are not just broken bones - they're a precursor to future breaks and further disability," said Prof Peter Ebeling, medical director of Osteoporosis Australia, board member, International Osteoporosis Foundation and Head, Department of Medicine, School of Clinical Sciences, Monash Health, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia. "We must work together, across disciplines in Asia Pacific, to prioritize fracture prevention and initiate systematic, long-term treatment plans for those with broken bones. If we don't act now, the region will be the epicentre of broken bones due to osteoporosis by 2050," Prof Ebeling said.

Call for regional multi-stakeholder collaboration to make bone health a national priority among rapidly aging Asia Pacific economies

The report also cited the need for a holistic, multi-faceted, consistent and coordinated regional care approach. Key stakeholder groups interviewed highlighted various barriers to improved awareness, education and fracture prevention, including a lack of data, disease prioritisation and compliance with treatment regimens, and cost considerations.

"The cost, in both economic and human terms, of fragility fractures is immense, and will get more so unless policymakers take action. Our report calls for a comprehensive policy framework led by a regional, multi-stakeholder alliance of governments, healthcare professionals, patient groups and NGOs," said Charles Goddard, editorial director, Asia Pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit. "Only through this multi-faceted approach will we be able to deliver coherent, coordinated patient-centric care."

"As a leader in bone health, Amgen supports collaborations with like-minded stakeholders that can drive systematic change in the management and prevention of fragility fractures," said Penny Wan, regional vice president and general manager, Japan Asia Pacific (JAPAC), Amgen.

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