After several years of extreme pain, Inese Ergle was diagnosed with osteoporosis. She was just 30 years of age. Inese, who had been to numerous doctors and had many X-rays before a diagnostic DXA scan finally revealed the cause of her pain and immobility, was extremely fortunate to find knowledgeable doctors. She received treatment, which quickly had beneficial effects. Although her back-pain still remains due to damage that is irreversible, she now enjoys freedom of movement and has regained much of her quality of life.

Inese Ergle, left, at a presentation on the occasion of the visit of Former US Secretary of State Madeleine AlbrightInese Ergle, left, at a presentation on the occasion of the visit of Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright But a constant source of worry has been the high cost of medication, which at the beginning ate up one-third of her income every month.

With governmental promises to provide reimbursement for diagnosis and treatment being postponed several times, Inese and other concerned patients and doctors decided to take matters into their own hands. In 2002 they established the Latvia Osteoporosis Patient and Invalid Association (of which Inese became President), which is advocating reimbursement and is working to raise awareness of osteoporosis in Latvia.

Their lobbying efforts have achieved much in a short time: as of July 1, 2005, patients who have sustained an osteoporotic fracture receive 75% reimbursement for medication. In addition, the government promised to offer 50% reimbursement for people with osteoporosis prior to fracture. The announcement of the new reimbursement policy followed the May launch of official osteoporosis guidelines by the Latvian Osteoporosis Society in conjunction with other specialists.

“I could jump for joy! This is a great victory in the fight against osteoporosis and against the indifference in our country. I do hope this good news will encourage other patient organizations to continue their struggle for reimbursement,” said Inese.

More good news: as a result of the new policy, pharmaceutical companies agreed to reduce costs by about 30%. In Latvia, as in many other countries without reimbursement, most patients cannot afford the high cost of medication. For example, the average monthly governmental retirement benefits in Latvia are only ca. 100 euros. With the monthly cost of the most common osteoporosis medication formerly at ca. 55 euros, treatment was inaccessible to the majority of pensioners.

Now, with reduced prices and partial reimbursement, more people with osteoporosis will have access to much needed treatment. Although diagnostic testing remains non-reimbursed (and DXA equipment is in the private sector), the significant discounts offered by the clinics ensure that testing itself is less of a financial burden for patients.

“Our work is not done yet,” said Inese Ergle. “The GPs in Latvia do not consider osteoporosis a serious illness, only as something trivial. They do not see the connection between osteoporosis and fractures.

Read more stories of people with osteoporosis.