Analysis: Stroke costs to top $2.2 trill.

By STEVE MITCHELL, UPI Senior Medical Correspondent  |  Aug. 16, 2006 at 5:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Health professionals Wednesday urged increased funding for stroke research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) because expenditures due to the disorder are projected to top $2.2 trillion by 2050.

A study published in the online edition of Neurology projects the total cost of ischemic stroke from 2005-2050 will total $1.52 trillion for whites, $379 billion for African Americans and $313 billion for Hispanics, unless there are improvements in therapies for the condition.

"The indirect and direct costs of stroke will likely exceed $2.2 trillion, with the highest per capita cost being among African Americans and Hispanics," the study's lead author Devin Brown, of the Stroke Program at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, told United Press International.

"We're hopeful this study will assist public health planners in setting research agendas," Brown said.

In response to the findings, the American Academy of Neurology, which is comprised of more than 19,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, urged Congress to increase funding for NIH.

"With the cost of stroke reaching $2.2 trillion, it is essential the NIH have the resources to halt this impending epidemic," said Catherine Rydell, CEO and executive director of the AAN.

"The NIH has the ability to perform the research that can save countless lives and billions of dollars in healthcare costs if Congress would adequately fund its mission," Rydell added. "The AAN will continue to work with our partners at the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, and others to stress to Congress the importance of funding NIH."

The AAN wants the fiscal year 2007 NIH budget increased by five percent, or $1.4 billion, to $30 billion.

"The academy along with other organizations worked hard to make sure NIH funding was doubled in the last 5 years and now we want to make sure we have steady growth in that budget," Rydell told UPI.

She said she thinks the chances are good of getting Congress to pass the increase the AAN is seeking. "This country has to keep investing into research, into diseases, into causes of death in order to make sure we have the healthiest population possible," she said.

The hope is that the increased NIH funding would translate into new therapies for preventing or treating stroke.

Right now, there are "a lot of companies working on stroke therapies because the incidence and economic impact on the world is so high," Rydell said.

Brown said increased NIH funding is a place to start, but there should also be more public education about stroke symptoms and when to call 9-1-1, so patients could get treated earlier. In addition, more emphasis on stroke prevention efforts, such as better blood pressure control, could also be beneficial.

"The application of known therapies to reduce stroke risk and that decrease disability after stroke will make an impact, but also, we need to focus on the discovery of new treatments," she said.

In addition, the drug tPA also may be able to reduce the burden. If tPA is administered within the first three hours after a stroke, it can lessen brain damage and thereby reduce the costs of future care. Currently, however, only about three percent of stroke patients receive tPA in the allotted time.

Paul Girolami, spokesman for NIH's National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, did not respond to UPI's request for comment about the stroke cost projections.

In the study, which is based on two major stroke studies, BASIC and NOMASS, Brown and her co-authors looked only at the costs of ischemic strokes, which account for the majority of all strokes. They included the costs of ambulances, hospital stays, medications, nursing home care, doctor's visits and lost income.

The authors say the $2.2 trillion projection is conservative because it is based on current rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, which are likely to become more prevalent in future years.

White stroke victims will cost approximately $16,000 on a per-capita basis compared to approximately $17,000 for Hispanics and nearly $26,000 for African Americans.

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