NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 29, 2004

The number of Americans diagnosed with osteoporosis rose sevenfold over the last decade, coinciding with the development and release of new drugs to treat the bone thinning condition, say Stanford University researchers.

According to the study:

  • As of 2003, there were about 3.6 million people who had been diagnosed with osteoporosis, compared to half a million in 1994.
  • Osteoporosis affects an estimated 10 million Americans, mostly women, and 34 million more have less severe bone thinning that increases the risk for it.
  • In 1988, estrogen was prescribed at 35 percent of osteoporosis-related doctor visits, but that fell to 3 percent last year.

Estrogen alternatives have grown into a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry, and researchers believe that the widespread ad campaigns that raise awareness about the disease may have helped increase the diagnosis rate.

Prescriptions for calcium, another older standard treatment for osteoporosis, fell during the study period as well. Researchers said that new guidelines recommending universal screening for women 65 and older may further improve diagnosis and treatment.

Source: "Osteoporosis Cases Have Skyrocketed Over Past Decade," Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2004; based upon Randall S. Stafford, Rebecca L. Drieling and Adam L. Hersh, "National Trends in Osteoporosis Visits and Osteoporosis Treatment, 1988-2003," Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 164, No. 14, July 26, 2004.


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