Osteoporosis Prevalence and Levels of Treatment in Primary Care: The Australian BoneCare Study


  • John Eisman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Garvan Institute of Medical Research, St. Vincent's Campus, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    • Address reprint requests to: John Eisman, MB, BS, PhD Bone and Mineral Program Garvan Institute of Medical Research University of New South Wales St. Vincent's Hospital 384 Victoria Street Darlinghurst, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia
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  • Sharon Clapham,

    1. Health Care Strategy and Corporate Affairs, Merck, Sharp and Dohme Australia, South Granville, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Linda Kehoe

    1. Total Research Pty. Ltd., Kingsford, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Dr Eisman has served as a consultant and received research support from Aventis, Eli Lilly and Company, Merck, Sharp & Dohme, Novartis, NPS Pharmaceuticals, Organon, Roche, and Servier. Dr Clapham is an employee of Merck, Sharp, & Dohme Australia and owns stock in Merck & Co., Inc. Dr Kehoe served as a consultant for Merck, Sharp, & Dohme.


The level of recognition and treatment of osteoporosis is not well characterized in primary care. In data from a large sample of postmenopausal women attending 927 primary care physicians, 29% of women reported one or more fractures after menopause. The great majority (72%) were not on any osteoporosis-specific therapy.

Introduction: Osteoporosis is often first recognized at the time of a low-trauma fracture. However, by this stage, the risk of subsequent fractures has already risen substantially. Moreover, in many countries, only a small proportion of women, who have already sustained fractures, receive a treatment shown to reduce this increased risk of further fractures.

Materials and Methods: This project was initiated to examine the prevalence of osteoporotic fractures, risk factors for osteoporosis, and use of antifracture therapy among postmenopausal Australian women. More than 88,000 women from 927 primary care physicians returned over 69,358 surveys. Of these, 57,088 reported the presence of a postmenopausal fracture or risk factors.

Results: Among these randomly selected postmenopausal women, 29% reported having had one or more low-trauma fractures after menopause (44% substantiated in current records). One-third of these women reported multiple fractures. The prevalence of all types of fractures, except rib and ankle, increased with age and low body weight. Those who reported fractures were also more likely to report early menopause, corticosteroid use, and a family history of osteoporosis. Moreover, those with vertebral fractures were more likely to record height loss, kyphosis, and back pain. Physical inactivity, low calcium intake, and smoking had no consistent relationship with any fracture outcome. Of the women who reported a fracture after menopause, only 28% were on any specific therapy for osteoporosis, and 7% were on calcium alone. Of those who had been told they had osteoporosis by a doctor, 40% were receiving specific osteoporosis therapy.

Conclusions: In this large study of postmenopausal Australian women attending primary care physicians, 29% reported at least one low-trauma fracture after menopause. Less than one-third of these women were on specific treatment for osteoporosis, and only 40% were ever told they had osteoporosis. Therefore, osteoporotic fractures are common in postmenopausal Australian women, and few, despite their substantially increased risk of further fractures, are on any specific anti-osteoporotic therapy. These data support the need for more effective education for the community and medical practitioners of the clinical significance of osteoporotic fractures and alternatives for treatment.