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U.S. Parkinson“s disease incidence far higher than earlier estimates, study shows


The annual number of new Parkinson’s disease diagnoses in the United States is likely 50% higher than estimated, based on a broad analysis of insurance claims and population growth detailed in a study published on Thursday that could help increase funding and care for the disabling illness.

Earlier, much smaller U.S. studies conducted in the mid-1980’s had suggested roughly 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. The number in 2020 was likely closer to 86,000 and will approach 90,000 this year, James Beck, chief scientific officer for the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in an interview.

Parkinson’s – the second-most deadly neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease – is disabling and incurable. The estimated economic cost is $52 billion annually in the United States alone, according to a report of the study published in npj Parkinson’s Disease.

The researchers hope documenting the higher numbers will help the Parkinson’s Foundation and other advocacy groups such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research obtain increased funding for research and access to care.

To update the estimated number of people being diagnosed with the disease, Beck’s team analyzed data from large health insurance databases and long-term health studies on more than 15 million adults across the United States and in Ontario, Canada, in 2012. That is the most recent year for which the necessary data was consistent among all the databases, Beck said.

Using computer models, the researchers adjusted the findings to reflect more recent U.S. populations.

“These updated estimates of incidence are necessary for understanding disease risk, planning healthcare delivery, and addressing care disparities,” Beck said.

“We’re confident that we have data sets that represent a broad swath of America.”

Each year, Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed in 47 to 77 of every 100,000 adults over age 45 and in 108 to 112 of every 100,000 age 65 and older, Beck’s team reported

The higher rate in older people is not surprising because age is the biggest risk factor for the disease, Beck said.

A separate study by Beck’s team recently put the number of U.S. patients living with Parkinson’s disease at nearly 1 million, whereas earlier estimates had been closer to 650,000, he said.

The global Parkinson’s disease drug market is projected to reach $8.4 billion by 2030, from $5.5 billion in 2021, according to QY Research as reported by Biospace.

Manufacturers of Parkinson’s treatments include Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), Roche Holding AG (ROG.S), Merck & Co (MRK.N), Novartis AG (NOVN.S), UCB SA (UCB.BR), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (VRTX.O), H Lundbeck A/S , Acadia Pharmaceuticals (ACAD.O), Vertical Pharma Resources Ltd and Impax Laboratories.

“Because the U.S. population is aging, a lot of people are going to be entering the health system with Parkinson’s disease,” Beck said, “and there are only about 700 neurologists in the country who specialize in movement disorders.”