The Economics Of Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative (brain degeneration) disease that particularly affects the neurotransmitter dopamine’s neurons in a particular part of the brain that controls movement patterns. Parkinson’s disease was first described by James Parkinson in 1817 in an essay titled “An Essay of the Shaking Palsy”. Numerous attempts have been made to find the cause of Parkinson’s and find a cure but to date neither has been successful. It affects 1-2% of the over 50 year old population in the US – approximately 1.5 million people.
It is generally believed that thereare certain environmental factors that may play a role in developing Parkinson disease as well as certain hereditary factors. There may also be a combination of these two factors. Studies have shown that exposure to pesticides, industrial waste, and environmental toxins is involved in the start of disease in some people. Familial links have been found in <10% of the cases. Two recently published studies in the journal Movement Disorders reviewthe economic burden associated with Parkinson’s disease for those families in the US. It is estimated that this burden is at least $14.4 billion per year with the prevalence (or how widespread the disease is) more than doubling by 2040.
As a comparison, one of the studies noted that Parkinson’s related medical expenses were approximately $22 800 per patient compared to $10 000 for someone without Parkinson’s. More than half of that increased cost was shown to be associated with the increased use of nursing home services. Indirect costs for Parkinson’s such as missed work or job loss for the patient or caregiver, travel expenses to see a neurologist or movement disorders specialist, home modifications, adult day care and personal care aides added $6.3 billion to the total.
One of the studies also made some predictions with regard to improving the economics of this situation should they find a treatment to slow the progression of the disease. They estimated that a 50% slow down would yield a 35% drop in excess cost. This would represent a huge savings that would be spread over a longer time period representing an increase in expected survival time.