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Boom Go Parkinson’s Costs

Friday June 12, 2015

(Blogger’s note: I apologize for the numbers-heavy nature of this post. There is a payoff, I promise).

How many people in the United States suffer from Parkinson’s disease? That’s hard to say. So hard, that estimates I’ve seen range between half a million (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) to as much as a million (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.) Additional uncertainty exists because of the difficulty of obtaining a proper diagnosis, even when the classic signs appear, and the fact that PD is clearly at work in patients for years before those classic diagnostic signs, tremor, slowness, and stiffness emerge. 

One thing that is certain is that the number of cases is will grow enormously as the vast Baby Boom generation of 76 million people born in the in the United States between 1946 and 1964 moves into the prime years for diagnosis with Parkinson’s. The average age for a PD diagnosis is 62. According to CNN, The 65+ population segment is projected to double to 71.5 million by 2030 and grow to 86.7 million by 2050. The rise in numbers of Parkinson’s cases is already underway. The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T. expects a doubling of cases between 2005 and 2030

The financial consequences of this are neither difficult to imagine, nor pleasant to anticipate. The Movement Disorders Society found that “The national economic burden of PD exceeds $14.4 billion in 2010 (approximately $22,800 per patient). The population with PD incurred medical expenses of approximately $14 billion in 2010, $8.1 billion higher ($12,800 per capita) than expected for a similar population without PD. Indirect costs (e.g., reduced employment) are conservatively estimated at $6.3 billion (or close to $10,000 per person with PD). The burden of chronic conditions such as PD is projected to grow substantially over the next few decades as the size of the elderly population grows.”  The Michael Stern Parkinson’s Research Foundation says that “Studies have indicated that for every dollar spent on high quality research $13 could be saved in direct and indirect costs. If new therapies could be found that could produce even a modest ten percent delay in the progression of Parkinson’s disease, hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved every year.”

Blog Illo 18This is where it gets interesting. If we could reduce costs by hundreds of millions through by delaying disease progression by 10%, what could we do by setting back symptoms 30%? That’s not a randomly chosen number. Dr. Jay Alberts of the Cleveland Clinic showed that patients pedaling at a pedal cadence between 80 to 90 strokes a minute for an hour a day, three days a week over 2 months saw a thirty percent improvement in their symptoms. That is money lying on the table that we can save ourselves and society at large.

So, my feckless fellow Baby Boomers, what do we do when word comes back that we have PD? Bear in mind, we are the most cosseted, indulged generation ever. We've largely been missing in action when the call came for sacrifice. On our watch the national debt shot to the stratosphere, we failed to face up to global warming, allowed the wealth of the nation to concentrate in the hands of the rich, locked our fellow Americans in prison at a disgraceful rate, let our national roads and bridges deteriorate, and the list goes on. Here’s something we can do to help all of us. Saddle and ride, this is our last chance.

*Editor's Note: Learn how you can help improve data on Parkinson's for knowledge, research and the cure by watching PD University's webinar: 

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

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