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Open Access Research article

An Asian viewpoint on the use of vitamin D and calcium in osteoporosis treatment: Physician and patient attitudes and beliefs

Siew Pheng Chan1, Boyd B Scott2 and Shuvayu S Sen2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala 50603, Lumpur, Malaysia

2 Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2010, 11:248  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-248

Published: 26 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Osteoporosis treatment guidelines recommend calcium and vitamin D supplementation for both prevention as well as treatment, however, compliance with these guidelines is often unsatisfactory. This study investigated the opinion of Asian physicians and Asian patients regarding vitamin D and calcium and patients' use of both.

Methods

Physicians selected from Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, Korea and Singapore were asked to grade the significance of vitamin D and calcium in the treatment of osteoporosis and their patients' use of these supplements. In addition, physicians recruited seven eligible osteoporotic women to answer a questionnaire to determine their use of vitamin D and calcium, and their attitudes and beliefs regarding these supplements.

Results

In total, 237 physicians and 1463 osteoporosis patients completed the questionnaire. The results revealed that 22% of physicians in Malaysia, 12% in Taiwan, 72% in the Philippines, 50% in Korea and 24% in Singapore rated the importance of vitamin D supplementation as being extremely important. For calcium, 27% of physicians in Malaysia, 30% in Taiwan, 80% in the Philippines, 50% in Korea and 38% in Singapore rated the importance as being extremely important. Forty-three percent of patients in Malaysia, 38% in Taiwan, 73% in the Philippines, 35% in Korea and 39% in Singapore rated the importance of vitamin D as being extremely important. For calcium, 69% of patients in Malaysia, 58% in Taiwan, 90% in the Philippines, 70% in Korea and 55% in Singapore rated the importance as being extremely important. In addition, results of the patient questionnaire revealed that only a very small number regularly took both supplements. In addition, the results indicated that, with the exception of patients from the Philippines, the majority of patients had no or infrequent discussion with their physician about vitamin D and calcium.

Conclusions

There is generally suboptimal appreciation by both physicians and patients of the importance of vitamin D and calcium for maintenance of bone health as reflected in the low number of patients who reported regularly taking these supplements. Recognition of this problem should translate to appropriate action to improve education for both physicians and patients, with a goal to increase use of these supplements among Asian patients with osteoporosis.