06:45pm Tuesday 25 February 2020

A step towards preventing ‘bone failure’ in Australia

The program, known as Health Education for Longer Life in Osteoporosis (HELLO) has its inaugural sessions, a one-day GP Workshop and half-day Patient Seminar, on 26 and 27 November respectively. Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, will be opening the Patient Seminar.

The term ‘bone failure’ is being used advisedly, as a way of communicating the message that osteoporosis is a very serious condition that kills people.

The statistics are very sobering indeed. Bone failure affects 2.2 million Australians, men and women. Of these, fewer than 20% of women, and 5% of men, receive appropriate treatment.

Twenty four percent of older women in Australia have had a fracture and are not on any treatment designed to reduce their risk of another fracture. In other words, one in four older women in Australia are not receiving the treatment they need.

Garvan’s Professor John Eisman has been treating people with osteoporosis for over 40 years, and was so concerned about the lack of adequate treatment, that he instigated the HELLO program. “When I started working in this area, we didn’t have any way of diagnosing osteoporosis, except by somebody having had a fracture,” he said.

“Back then, we didn’t have a single treatment that had been validated. Not one. That situation has changed radically, but you wouldn’t think it, because the changes are not backed up by awareness and behaviour.”

“We are in a position to predict bone failure, and we have a variety of treatments that have been validated in international, multi-centre, randomised-control, blinded studies.”

“We don’t have anything yet that completely stops fractures. There is nothing in medicine that guarantees prevention of disease, only things that reduce risk.”

“The current situation, from my perspective, is like somebody coming into hospital after a heart attack, my putting in a stent, and then never checking their cholesterol, or their blood pressure, or whether they’ve got diabetes, or anything else. Everyone would agree that is totally unacceptable.”

“I believe that people don’t understand the problem of bone failure – the severity or significance of it. And they don’t understand how good the alternatives are. I am making it my mission to try and change that.”

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research was founded in 1963. Initially a research department of St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, it is now one of Australia’s largest medical research institutions with over 500 scientists, students and support staff. Garvan’s main research programs are: Cancer, Diabetes & Obesity, Immunology and Inflammation and Neuroscience. Garvan’s mission is to make significant contributions to medical science that will change the directions of science and medicine and have major impacts on human health. The outcome of Garvan’s discoveries is the development of better methods of diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, prevention of disease.


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Alison Heather
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