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January 2018

The Parkinson Pandemic—A Call to Action

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Health and Technology, Department of Neurology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
  • 2Radboud University Medical Center, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Department of Neurology, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(1):9-10. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3299

Pandemics are usually equated with infectious diseases such as Zika, influenza, and HIV. However, an imminent noninfectious pandemic, Parkinson disease (PD), requires immediate action.

Neurological disorders are now the leading cause of disability in the world.1 Among these neurological disorders, the fastest growing is PD, whose growth is surpassing that of Alzheimer disease.1 From 1990 to 2015, the prevalence of, and thus disability and deaths owing to, PD more than doubled.1 The Global Burden of Disease Study estimates that 6.2 million individuals currently have PD. Because the incidence of PD increases sharply with age and because the world’s population is aging, the number of individuals affected is poised for exponential growth (Figure). Conservatively applying worldwide prevalence data from a 2014 meta-analysis2 to projections of the world’s future population,3 the number of people with PD will double from 6.9 million in 2015 to 14.2 million in 2040. Applying this same growth rate to the lower estimate by the Global Burden of Disease study (6.2 million in 2015) projects to a staggering 12.9 million affected by 2040.