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U.S. Neurologist Care Saves 4,600 Lives of People with Parkinson's Each Year

June 10, 2014

U.S. Neurologist Care Saves 4,600 Lives of People with Parkinson's Each Year


MIAMI— PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) released an important study stressing the importance of neurologist care at the 18th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders in Stockholm this week. The key finding is that expert neurologist care not only saves about 4,600 lives, but better access to this care could prevent the deaths of another nearly 7,000 people with Parkinson's disease (PD) each year in the U.S. alone.

"Access to expert care not only improves the quality of life for people with Parkinson's, it actually saves lives," said Joyce Oberdorf, NPF's President and CEO. "Greater access to expert care would save even more lives—roughly the same number of people who die from HIV/AIDS annually."

Peter N. Schmidt, PhD, of the National Parkinson Foundation, and Allison W. Willis, MD, at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a data analysis to identify the annual mortality rate for people with Parkinson's due to lack of access to a neurologist. After finding that 48,140 people with Parkinson's die each year, they found that 6,967 of those deaths could have been forestalled with better care. The study highlighted evidence that not only would those lives be saved, people treated by a neurologist also live higher quality lives with fewer hospitalizations and a lower chance of being placed in a nursing home.

"In my research I've demonstrated that this increased survival is not just about staying alive longer," said Dr. Willis, who is a neurologist with advanced training in Parkinson's and other movement disorders. "Patients getting expert care benefit through lower rates of hip fracture and other complications, and remain independent longer.  There's good evidence that patients seen at a NPF Center of Excellence like we have at the University of Pennsylvania gain even more, and I see this myself in my practice."

"The next key challenge is to design a system where expert care is available to everyone who needs it," said Peter N. Schmidt, PhD, NPF's CIO and Vice President, Research and Professional Programs. "We are doing this in several important initiatives including collaborating on a telemedicine initiative to deliver expert care into underserved communities and our Parkinson's Outcomes Project where we are working to scientifically identify how the best Parkinson's doctors achieve the great outcomes they do."

NPF's Parkinson's Outcomes Project is the largest clinical study of Parkinson's disease ever conducted with more than 7,500 patients with PD who receive care at 20 NPF Centers of Excellence in four countries. NPF issued care recommendations in 2012 around the issue of depression in PD after finding that it was undiagnosed in the patients tracked through the study.  The goal of the Parkinson's Outcomes Project is to continue to identify best care practices for Parkinson's that could help get better care to more people affected by the disease.   For more information about NPF's research initiatives, visit

About Parkinson's Disease (PD)
Affecting an estimated one million Americans and four to six million worldwide, PD is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression) as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for PD and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

About the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF)
Founded in 1957, the National Parkinson Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of care for people with Parkinson's disease through research, education and outreach. NPF has funded more than $180 million in care, research and support services. For more information about NPF, visit, or call the NPF Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).