The Economic Implications of Parkinson's Disease

The Economic Implications of Parkinson's Disease

03.20.13 | By Kaelan Hollon

Today, The Catalyst features a guest post from Parkinson's Action Network CEO Amy Comstock Rick who, in light of the conclusion of Brain Awareness Week, discusses the results of two studies published in Movement Disorders, titled "The Current and Projected Economic Burden of Parkinson's Disease in the United States" and "An Economic Model of Parkinson's Disease: Implications for Slowing Progression in the United States."

We've reached the end of Brain Awareness Week, but there is still much to be done to address the challenges facing patients suffering from neurological conditions. The lives of patients with diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are affected 365 days a year and we must find ways to continue to support research that will help find a cure.

Parkinson's is the second most common neurological condition after Alzheimer's, and two recently released studies in Movement Disorders emphasize the importance of increased research funding because it saves patients' lives and helps relieve some of the cost burden. Treatment currently costs approximately $14.4 billion a year, averaging $22,800 per patient, and there is an additional $6.3 billion in costs associated with missed work for the patient or family member who is helping with care. If costs continue to increase steadily, they will eventually double in 2040.

Funding for Parkinson's disease in 2011 was just $151 million - only 1.05% of the $14.4 billion in costs associated with it, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). With nearly half (48%) of the medical expenses evaluated in the study Medicare and Medicaid-related, slowing the progression of the disease would provide a cost-savings.

To achieve this, we need academic and industry research groups to collaborate and share knowledge to facilitate the discovery of new treatments that will slow the advancement of Parkinson's and decrease the monetary burden for patients, while increasing quality of life. We also need strong federal, state and local policies and programs that support advances in research and development that helps lower future costs and provides needed relief to patients and their families.

Reducing the impact of Parkinson's must be a priority in federal budget decisions. This disease is expensive for patients, their families and the broader healthcare system, and costs are projected to rise. Both studies note that their findings are conservative estimates due to limits in data. The prevalence and economic burden of Parkinson's will grow exponentially over the next few decades with the aging of the baby boomers. We must take action now so that families affected by this disease and already stretched too thin do not see a significantly higher cost burden. This is doable if we put our collective minds to it.

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