Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s Diseases

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder affecting the basal ganglia and is characterized by tremor, muscle rigidity and slowness of movement. A deficiency of dopamine and some other transmitter occurs. Parkinson's Disease affects one in five hundred persons, one in fifty persons over fifty years of age and one in twenty persons over seventy years of age. Younger onset cases account for about ten percent of cases.

Alzheimer’s disease is the commonest of dementia and was first described by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, who described five pathological changes in in brain tissue. However none of the five are unique to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's Disease affects ten percent of the population over sixty-five years and forty percent of the population over eighty-five years. It is the fourth leading cause of death. Alzheimer's Disease is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner in one sixth of cases, especially earlier onset cases.

Lou Gehrig's Disease, which is also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects motor neurons in brain and spinal cord which control voluntary movements of muscles. Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a more rapidly deteriorating illness, which affects about one quarter of a million patients worldwide.

There are six hundred thousand Parkinson’s disease patients and five million Alzheimer’s disease patients in the United States. A half million of those Alzheimer’s patients are under sixty five years of age. More women than men are afflicted due to the higher longevity of women. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Death rates from Alzheimer’s rise dramatically while death rates from heart disease and prostate cancer fall. Comparable numbers of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s patients are afflicted in Europe and Asia, where the population pyramid has a similar structure.

The costs of Alzheimer’s disease include an average of eighteen hours work weekly by family caregivers, the emotional burden on relatives and a financial cost of $150BN. in long-term care annually in the U.S. There is a substantial additional emotional and financial cost on families and other caregivers who support Alzheimer’s patients.

The problems of neurodegenerative diseases are a major and enlarging one as the number of Alzheimer’s patients in the developed world has doubled during the twenty five years and will double again during the next twenty five years. Previous treatments have only provided symptomatic benefit. The disability which results from these diseases precipitates or exacerbates many other medical problems and costs which are substantially higher than those of other elderly persons.