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Disease Areas Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones in which the quality and density of bone is reduced 1. This makes bones porous and fragile, greatly increasing the risk of a fracture.

The loss of bone occurs quietly and progressively. A bone mineral density (BMD) test, most commonly performed with low radiation using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), is used, along with medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests to assess for osteoporosis and fracture risk 2.

Sometimes the first sign of osteoporosis is a fractured bone. Spinal vertebrae, the hip, and wrist are the most commonly affected bones, causing pain, immobility and, in some cases, hospitalisation 3.

The profound impact osteoporosis can have on quality of life is what inspires UCB to seek solutions in science.

Osteoporosis causes about 9 million fractures per year



1 every  3 seconds 3

Who gets osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis affects an estimated 200 million people worldwide – approximately one-tenth of women aged 60, one fifth of women aged 70, two fifths of women aged 80, and two-thirds of women aged 90 3.

Although the disease is sometimes associated with postmenopausal women, osteoporosis affects men too. In fact, one third of hip fractures worldwide occur in men 4. Over the course of their lifetimes, one in three women and one in five men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture 4.

Fracture rates are increasing rapidly in men 4
Women
with
osteoporosis
  • 60 years old1 in 10
  • 70 years old2 in 10
  • 80 years old4 in 10
  • 90 years old6½ in 10

Am I at risk?

Family history plays an important role in determining the risk of osteoporotic fracture 5. Women and men with osteoporosis in their family are more likely to develop the disease and have fractures arising from minor trauma.

In addition to family history, other risk factors include: physical inactivity, smoking, high alcohol intake, long-term use of corticosteroids or proton pump inhibiting medicines and low body weight 3.

Fast Facts

You are 50% more likely to break a bone if your parent had an osteoporotic fracture 6 You are twice as likely to fracture your hip if your mother or father broke theirs 6 Ensuring an adequate intake of calcium, a major building-block of bone, can help reduce the risk of fractures 7
Vitamin D aids calcium absorption from food in the intestine 7  
 
 
Weight-bearing exercise is essential for building strong bones and muscles 8

Prevention: mind your bones

A healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis 7. Calcium and vitamin D help to promote bone health.

A picture of Lut, who is living with osteoporosis

Good sources of calcium include dairy products, green vegetables, certain fruits, nuts and canned fish with soft edible bones 7. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as oily fish, eggs and liver, and is also made in the skin following exposure to the sun 7.

Weight-bearing exercise such as hiking, running, dancing, ball games and brisk walking are associated with lower risk of osteoporosis 8. Building muscle strength also helps. This can be achieved by lifting weights or doing resistance exercises. Yoga and Pilates can improve strength and balance 9.

A picture of Lut, who is living with osteoporosis

Good sources of calcium include dairy products, green vegetables, certain fruits, nuts and canned fish with soft edible bones 7. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as oily fish, eggs and liver, and is also made in the skin following exposure to the sun 7.

Weight-bearing exercise such as hiking, running, dancing, ball games and brisk walking are associated with lower risk of osteoporosis 8. Building muscle strength also helps. This can be achieved by lifting weights or doing resistance exercises. Yoga and Pilates can improve strength and balance 9.

Treatments

Our bones undergo constant renewal. Some cells are responsible for making bone while others are tasked with breaking it down 10. Osteoporosis is essentially an imbalance in this system. Instead of maintaining strong and dense bones, the body breaks down bone more quickly than forming new bone to replace it. The consequence is a loss of bone density and a deterioration of the bone microarchitecture resulting in fragile bones at risk of fracture.

Calcium and vitamin D supplements, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise, form part of good bone care but alone are not sufficient once osteoporosis has developed and patients are at risk for fracture. Hormones such as oestrogen and progestin can be used to prevent bone loss and fractures.

Common treatments for osteoporosis include oral or intravenous bisphosphonates and subcutaneous denosumab. Both of these therapies reduce the rate at which bones are broken down and reduce the bone loss and deterioration of the skeleton. If osteoporosis is severe, daily parathyroid hormone injections may be used because it can help form new bone.

A picture of Aurore Mary, who is also living with Lupus

Solutions driven by science

At UCB, we are committed to turning cutting-edge scientific knowledge into solutions for patients.

By studying a rare genetic bone disorder, UCB – along with our academic and commercial partners – have been exploring a novel approach to reduce the risk for fracture, the loss of bone density and the micro-structural deterioration suffered by osteoporosis patients 11.

Whereas most osteoporosis treatments seek to reduce the rate at which bones are broken down, we have been testing the potential of antibodies to increase bone building.

Our research in this area demonstrates that we are Inspired by Patients. Driven by Science.

A picture of Aurore Mary, who is also living with Lupus

Solutions driven by science

At UCB, we are committed to turning cutting-edge scientific knowledge into solutions for patients.

By studying a rare genetic bone disorder, UCB – along with our academic and commercial partners – have been exploring a novel approach to reduce the risk for fracture, the loss of bone density and the micro-structural deterioration suffered by osteoporosis patients 11.

Whereas most osteoporosis treatments seek to reduce the rate at which bones are broken down, we have been testing the potential of antibodies to increase bone building.

Our research in this area demonstrates that we are Inspired by Patients. Driven by Science.

The sclerosteosis story

The inspiration for new medicines is sometimes found in unusual places. In isolated Afrikaner communities in South Africa, around 100 people have been diagnosed with a rare inherited condition called sclerosteosis. While the condition is associated with a variety of problems, researchers also found that their bones are big, very dense and particularly strong.

Their strong bones are due to a mutation in the gene that controls the production of sclerostin – a substance which in turn limits bone formation. Because their bodies failed to produce, or had lower levels of, sclerostin their bones grew quickly and very strong.

Geneticists set about studying this sclerostin gene mutation 12. From there, drug development experts identified an antibody which binds and inhibits sclerostin and thus helps build denser, stronger bones in people with osteoporosis 13.

This remarkable story is helping to write a new chapter in UCB’s history and has the potential to help change the lives of women and men living with osteoporosis.