[en] It is estimated that over 200 million people worldwide have osteoporosis. The prevalence of osteoporosis is continuing to escalate with the increasingly elderly population. The major complication of osteoporosis is an increase in fragility fractures leading to morbidity, mortality, and decreased quality of life. In the European Union, in 2000, the number of osteoporotic fractures was estimated at 3.79 million. A baseline fracture is a very strong predictor of further fractures with 20% of patients experiencing a second fracture within the first year. The costs to health care services are already considerable and, on Current trends, are predicted to double by 2050. The direct costs of osteoporotic fractures to the health services in the European Union in the year 2000 were estimated at Euro32 billion. Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis are available in many countries; however, implementation is generally poor despite the availability of treatments with proven efficacy. Programs to increase awareness of osteoporosis and its outcomes are necessary for healthcare specialists and the general public. Earlier diagnosis and intervention prior to the first fracture are highly desirable. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.