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Women are more likely than men to seek treatment for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found.

The report, Population differences in health-care use for arthritis and osteoporosis in Australia, shows that when it comes to managing their osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, the level of inaction is significantly higher for men than women.

‘This inaction includes not visiting a health professional, taking medications or making lifestyle changes,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster.

The report suggests that a lack of action early in the disease progression is resulting in men then requiring more drastic interventions (such as joint replacement).

Despite the tendency for the disease to be more severe in women, the rate of joint replacement surgery among those with osteoarthritis or osteoporosis was lower for women than men.

The report found no difference in levels of treatment action for rheumatoid arthritis. Women with rheumatoid arthritis had a higher rate of joint replacement than men—consistent with a tendency for women to experience more severe disease.

The report also shows that rates of treatment varied depending on socioeconomic status.

‘Complementary medicines are a common element of treatment for osteoarthritis but use of these medicines was 32% lower in the lowest socioeconomic group than in the highest. This suggests that cost may be a barrier for some people. Similar results were found for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis,’ Dr Webster said.

A second AIHW report also released today, Use of antiresorptive agents for osteoporosis management, examines the supply pattern of antiresorptives—medicines which can slow down the bone loss associated with osteoporosis—between 2003 and 2007.

The report found that in the first 12 months of therapy, 2 in 5 patients did not receive enough medication to receive the maximum benefit from the therapy. One quarter of the patients had stopped receiving antiresorptives by 6 months and 1 in 10 only received the first supply. This suggests that a large proportion of patients are not receiving the full benefits of this type of therapy.

The majority of people using antiresorptive therapy were women aged 65 years and over.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 26 August 2011

Further information: Dr Adrian Webster, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1119, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032

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