Preventing secondary osteoporotic fractures could save Medicare billions, according to a recent report released by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Investigators found that the additional cost to Medicare fee-for-service totaled $6.3 billion for beneficiaries who suffered a secondary fracture within two to three years after an initial fracture. Reducing secondary fractures by 5% to 20% in 2015 could have reduced Medicare FFS spending by up to $1.2 billion over the same post-fracture time period, the report concluded. 

Despite the exorbitant costs, prevention efforts are a fraction of what they should be, said Elizabeth Thompson, CEO of NOF. In fact, only 9% of female beneficiaries were found to have been screened for osteoporosis within six months following an initial fracture. 

“The good news is that we have the tools to stem this crisis,” Thompson said. She recommends that clinicians step up bone density testing and FDA-approved drug treatments for osteoporosis, both covered by Medicare. These can help reduce spine and hip fractures by up to 70% and cut repeat fractures by about half, she said. 

Approximately 2.3 million osteoporotic fractures were suffered by two million Americans covered by Medicare in 2015.

The NOF study was conducted by Milliman.