This week, a report conducted by IHS-Global was published in the journal Movement Disorders, providing the most comprehensive, economic analysis to date of the direct and indirect costs of Parkinson’s disease to individuals and society in the United States. (In full disclosure, it was underwritten by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America).
While certain premises within the report – most notably, the estimate of the overall prevalence of Parkinson’s in the United States, which is probably on the low side – may be uncertain, most of the numbers are well thought through and carefully applied to the known data.
Implications for Research Funding
The Parkinson’s community – through a statement prepared by Amy Comstock Rick, CEO of the Washington-based Parkinson’s Action Network, and co-signed by the other leading Parkinson’s organizations, including the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation– has correctly noted that the main policy implication of the study is that we as a society should be prepared to invest more money on the “front end” of the process – that is, in research aimed at understanding, easing and ultimately eliminating Parkinson’s disease – to save the medical, maintenance and lost-earnings costs of the on the “back end.”
It is striking to reflect, as Amy’s statement makes clear, that the estimated total of research funds invested directly on Parkinson’s-disease related research is a mere one percent of the annual economic “burden” of the disease, as estimated by IHS. It needs to be more.
A Key Issue: Nursing Home Care
The report also raises the issue of high cost of health care for people with Parkinson’s. Since much of this is for areas that are not covered by most Medicare and most private insurance plans, the burden of these costs falls primarily on individuals with Parkinson’s and their families. One of the most striking statistics in the IHS report is the burden of nursing home care, estimated by the authors as a whopping $4.6 billion dollars a year – almost three times the cost of hospital care for the same population. (It is worth noting that if study indeed underestimates how many people live with Parkinson’s in the US, these costs are in fact higher.) Nursing home care, like many other areas of care needed by people who live with a chronic disease like Parkinson’s, is generally poorly covered, and the literature abounds with stories of families who find themselves forced to go on Medicaid to take get support for a family member who is afflicted. Simply put, a humane society needs to do a better job in providing for the needs of people afflicted by chronic disease.
We congratulate the authors on their contribution and hope it will enliven the national conversation about public support of research and care for Parkinson’s and other chronic diseases.