The report by independent actuarial firm Milliman examined the economic and clinical burden of new osteoporotic fractures in 2015 in the Medicare fee-for-service population, with data from a large medical claims database.
More than 10 million adults aged 50 years and older in the United States are thought to have osteoporosis, and 43.9% of adults are affected by low bone mass.
This report found that about 1.4 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries experienced more than 1.6 million osteoporotic fractures in that year, which if extrapolated to include Medicare Advantage beneficiaries would increase to a total of 2.3 million fractures in 2 million individuals.
The most common types of fractures were of the spine (23%) and hip (17%), although the authors noted that the spinal fracture figure did not account for potential underdiagnosis of vertebral fractures.
Women had a 79% higher rate of osteoporotic fractures than that of men, and one-third of people who experienced at least one osteoporotic fracture were aged 74-85 years.
Dane Hansen and colleagues from Milliman from drew particular attention to the lack of secondary prevention in people who had experienced a first osteoporotic fracture. They estimated that 15% of those who had a new osteoporotic fracture experienced one or more subsequent fractures within 12 months, yet only 9% of women received a bone mineral density test within 6 months to evaluate them for osteoporosis.
Overall, 21% of individuals who had a new osteoporotic fracture underwent bone mineral density testing during the fracture episode.
The authors pointed out that their analysis wasn’t able to look at pharmaceutical treatment, and so did not present “a full picture of the overall rate of BMD [bone mineral density] testing and appropriate treatment after a fracture for surviving patients.”
Nearly one in five Medicare beneficiaries experienced at least one new pressure ulcer during the fracture episode, and beneficiaries with osteoporotic fracture were two times more likely than were other Medicare beneficiaries to experience pressure ulcers. “This is significant because research has found that pressure ulcers are clinically difficult and expensive to manage,” the authors wrote. They also saw that nearly 20% of Medicare beneficiaries who experienced an osteoporotic fracture died within 12 months, with the highest mortality (30%) seen in those with hip fracture.
Osteoporotic fractures presented a significant cost burden, with 45% of beneficiaries having at least one acute inpatient hospital stay within 30 days of having a new osteoporotic fracture. The hospitalization rate was as high as 92% for individuals with hip fracture, while 11% of those with wrist fractures were hospitalized within 7 days of the fracture.
The annual allowed medical costs in the 12 months after a new fracture were more than twice the costs of the 12-month period before the fracture in the same individual, and each new fracture was associated with an incremental annual medical cost greater than $21,800.
“An osteoporotic fracture is a sentinel event that should trigger appropriate clinical attention directed to reducing the risk of future subsequent fractures,” the authors said. “Therefore, the months following an osteoporotic fracture, in which the risk of a subsequent fracture is high, provide an important opportunity to identify and treat osteoporosis and to perform other interventions, such as patient education and care coordination, in order to reduce the individual’s risk of a subsequent fracture.”
The report estimated that preventing 5% of subsequent osteoporotic fractures could have saved the Medicare program $310 million just in the 2-3 years after a new fracture, while preventing 20% of subsequent fractures could have saved $1,230 million. These figures included the cost of the additional bone mineral density testing, but did not account for the increased costs of treatment or fracture prevention.
“In future analysis, it will be important to net the total cost of the intervention and additional pharmaceutical treatment for osteoporosis against Medicare savings from avoided subsequent fractures to comprehensively measure the savings from secondary fracture prevention initiatives.”
SOURCE: Milliman Research Report, August 2019.