Neurological Disease Spending Burden Continues to Grow

Study suggests funding cuts to the National Institutes of Health could delay new treatments for neurological diseases that reduce spending.

With lifespans increasing, older adults are experiencing higher rates of chronic disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Additionally, the incidences of neurological disorders have begun to increase, especially among the elderly.

Results from a new study published by the Annals of Neurology suggest that neurological diseases cost the United States nearly $800 billion per year. By 2030, the study authors predict that spending on stroke and dementia alone will reach $600 billion, which puts an enormous strain on the healthcare system.

Costs are expected to skyrocket even further as the elderly population will nearly double between 2011 and 2050, according to the study.

Overall, the findings indicated that low back pain, traumatic brain injury, migraine headache, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and Parkinson’s disease were the most common disorders that pose a substantial financial burden, according to the study.

“Given these extraordinary and rapidly growing costs, a concrete strategy is urgently needed to reduce the burden of neurological disease,” said lead study author Clifton Gooch, MD.

The study authors call on the federal government to provide more funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in order to accelerate the creation of treatments and cures for dementia, stroke, and other neurological disorders that are projected to dominate spending in the future. The authors believe that creating therapies to delay, minimize, and prevent these disorders would be beneficial and could decrease spending, according to the study.

However, despite the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act that would increase funding for biomedical research, President Donald Trump plans to cut approximately $5.8 billion in annual funding for the NIH. Lawmakers and researchers have argued that this funding cut could harm patients and delay new treatments.

Increasing funding would likely improve treatments for neurological disorders and may drive down unnecessary healthcare spending.

“The very future of the neurological sciences and the patients we serve is now at stake, and the welfare of generations yet to come hangs upon the success of our efforts,” Dr Gooch said.

Creating an effective national database that tracks treatment successes and failures was also proposed by the authors.

The group of the 100 million Americans with neurological and musculoskeletal disorders have the most lost years of productivity than any other category of disease, which highlights the need for more effective treatments, the study concluded.

"The findings of this report are a wake-up call for the nation, as we are facing an already incredible financial burden that is going to rapidly worsen in the coming years," Dr Gooch said. "Although society continues to reap the benefits of the dramatic research investments in heart disease and cancer over the last few decades, similar levels of investment are required to fund neuroscience research focused on curing devastating neurological diseases such as stroke and Alzheimer's, both to help our patients and also to avoid costs so large they could destabilize the entire health care system and the national economy."