Vitamin D for osteoporosis would save Australia almost $1bn a year

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Vitamin D for osteoporosis would save Australia almost $1bn a year

Related tags Complementary medicines Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-3 fatty acid Nutrition

Complementary medicines can contribute to improved health and reduced consumer healthcare costs, according to a study by Frost and Sullivan.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI), concluded that health outcomes are improved and while consumers pay less when complementary medicines are used by high-risk target populations.

The study examined six complementary medicine regimens, all with evidence of efficacy, among patients with either cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, age-related macular degeneration and depression. 

Potential health and cost benefits

Frost and Sullivan found that the relative risk of an individual in the target population experiencing an osteoporosis-attributed fracture is reduced by 19.7% given the use of calcium and vitamin D at preventive intake levels. This translates to a potential of 36,783 avoidable osteoporosis-attributed fractures in 2015 given 100 per cent utilisation of calcium and vitamin D by the high risk population.

The report estimated that between 2015 and 2020, average annual hospitalisation costs of A$922m (US$784m) could be potentially saved, and average annual productivity gains of A$900m could be realised if all women aged over 50 who were diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia took a preventive dose of calcium and vitamin D. 

This translates to a benefit of A$22.34 for every dollar spent on complementary medicines, and over half of the savings would be realised by individual consumers.

“The biggest gains identified in the study are in the area of osteoporosis and osteopenia – conditions which affect 1.8 million Australians and resulted in approximately 140,822 fractures in 2012​,” said Dr Deon Schoombie, ASMI executive director.

Growing consumer base

Seventy per cent of Australians have taken complementary medicines in the last year for general health. Almost half of users take a complementary medicine daily, particularly those aged 65 years or older (67%). 

Among the most popular complementary medicines are fish oils and calcium. Twenty nine percent of fish oil users take it for heart health and 71% of calcium users take it for bone health.

The report also explored the burden of cardiovascular disease on Australians, and the potential health and economic benefits that could be realised if an omega-3 fatty acid regimen was used by all Australians aged 55 and over who are diagnosed with CVD.

It was estimated that the relative risk of hospitalisation due to a CVD event could be reduced by 4.9%, and 6,894 average annual medical events avoided between 2015 -2020 if all Australians aged over 55 with CVD were to take omega-3 fatty acids at a preventive level. 

The average annual benefit cost ratio from 2015 to 2020 would be A$8.49 for every dollar spent on the omega-3 fatty acids, with 60% of the savings going to individual consumers.

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