Osteoporosis is a devastating disease that is affecting millions of lives. The costs of osteoporosis are enormous, both to the individual who is afflicted with the disease and to society in general. It has been estimated by the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) that in 2000 approximately 44 million people aged 50 and over in the United States either had osteoporosis or were at risk of developing the disease; this number is expected to rise to over 61 million by the year 2020. The burden of osteoporosis on the health care system is estimated to be approximately $17 billion annually, accounting for about $40,000 in total medical costs for each hip fracture. The cost is expected to rise as high as $140 billion by the year 2040. Osteoporosis-related fractures cost the state of West Virginia an estimated $41.5 million in 2001.
Approximately 1.5 million fractures per year are osteoporosis related: 300,000 hip fractures, 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 distal forearm fractures, and 250,000 fractures at other sites.
Because osteoporosis primarily affects our older citizens, it is of particular concern to health professionals in West Virginia. In 2000, West Virginia had the oldest population in the nation according to population estimates published by the U.S. Census Bureau. The state’s median age was 38.9, higher even than that of Florida. As the population continues to age, the public health burden of osteoporosis in West Virginia will increase accordingly.
According to the NOF, one in every two women and one in four men will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture at some time in their lives. A woman’s risk of a hip fracture is equal to her combined risk of having breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer. Sufferers of hip fractures have a 5% to 20% greater risk of dying within the first year after their injury compared to others in the same age group. One-half (50%) of persons who have a hip fracture will be unable to walk without assistance during their remaining lifetime; 25% will require long-term care.