March 6, 2003 -- The cost of treating people with Parkinson's disease is likely to put a growing burden on health care systems as the baby boomer generation enters their golden years. A new Canadian study shows the number of people with Parkinson's in Ontario alone rose by 25% between 1992 and 1999, and the cost of health care for these patients is significantly higher compared to other individuals.
Parkinson's is a progressive neurological disease that affects people primarily over the age of 60. But researchers say calculating the health care costs associated with the disease is difficult because the impact and severity of its symptoms, such as muscle rigidity, tremors, and dementia, can be hard to quantify.
In this study, published in the March issue of Movement Disorders, researchers used information gathered from databases on drug and doctor costs as well as hospital usage in Ontario from 1992 to 1999 to compare the expenses associated with treating people with Parkinson's disease to people without the condition.
They found the cost of prescription drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease was a major factor behind rising health care costs. The average annual medication expenses were 300% higher for Parkinson's patients than for people without the disease.
In addition, the study found that the average cost for all types of physician care reported to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan was 40% higher for people with Parkinson's.
Hospital costs associated with Parkinson's disease were also much higher for people with the disease. Overall, there were about 45% more hospitalizations reported among Parkinson's patients, and their average length of hospital stay was 19% longer compared to the general population.
Researcher Mark Guttman, MD, of the University of Toronto, and colleagues say the findings show that Parkinson's disease is clearly associated with substantial direct costs to health care systems. Therefore, more aggressive research is needed to find better therapies to prevent and slow the progression of the disease to reduce both the physical and economic burdens of Parkinson's disease.
For more information on Parkinson's disease, check out the Parkinson's Disease Center.