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The Economic Burden for Parkinson’s Tops $50 Billion a Year in US

NICE, France—The economic burden of Parkinson's disease (PD) in the US was at least $52 billion in 2017, according to a comprehensive assessment presented here at the International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders.

The analysis is certainly an underestimate, the researchers who led the study at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and independent experts said.

Lead author Caroline Tanner, MD, PhD, FAAN, professor of neurology at UCSF, said she hopes the data form the groundwork for improvements and resources made available to fight the disease.

"In addition to the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson's disease itself, people with Parkinson's disease also experience injuries from falls and other comorbidities," Dr. Tanner and her colleagues wrote in the abstract. "As a result, people with Parkinson's have higher medical needs, often miss work, retire early, and require caregiver assistance. Parkinson's disease prevalence is predicted to increase in the coming decades. Comprehensive information on the economic burden of PD is needed."

The study, which intended to account for factors that are less understood or overlooked, drew data from a de-identified database of the privately insured population, Medicare claims and Census population projections, a survey designed to capture the indirect costs of PD, and other sources.

Direct medical costs—calculated as the amount paid by people with PD above the amount paid by matched controls—were estimated at $25.4 billion. This came out to a per-capita total of $24,439 for Medicare patients, $22,671 for the privately insured, and $19,489 for those with other coverage or the uninsured.

Indirect and non-medical costs—such as reduced employment, disability income payments, and modification to the home—amounted to $26.5 billion. Nearly $20 billion of that was for those with PD and another $6.6 billion was for unpaid caregiver burden. Per capita indirect and non-medical costs totaled $19,242 but went up to $25,558 when caregiver burden was added in.

"The indirect costs are equal to the direct costs, and they're also probably underestimated because we probably don't fully represent that population who we know have huge indirect costs because of the need for additional care in the home and things like that," Dr. Tanner said. "I think these are really important numbers for policy purposes and for health care planning. Hopefully this will allow people to have better justification for the need to have preventive strategies for Parkinson's, better treatment for Parkinson's, and more support."

The study was funded in part by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson's Foundation.

Commenting on the study, Suketu Khandhar, MD, medical director of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Movement Disorders Program, said the study is impressive.

"I think this is a huge economic burden to anyone everywhere," he said, adding that the figures should spur the government to offer incentives to improve Parkinson's care. The burden, he said, "ultimately falls on government finances and government resources."

Just putting numbers to the cost of PD is a breakthrough, he said. "I'm not sure I've seen those numbers in the past."

But he said the real cost must be even higher than the cost presented in the study, particularly because indirect costs are so hard to quantify. "I'm not sure you can truly capture all that."

Link Up for Related Information:

International Congress Abstract 1841: Tanner C, Albin R, Dahodwala N, et al. The economic burden of Parkinson's disease (PD) in the United States.