A new study led by researchers with the United Nations (UN) has projected that the number of cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) will increase by 69% over the next 25 years, primarily due to population ageing.
According to the study “Projected increase in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis from 2015 to 2040,” published in the August issue of Nature Communications, the number of people in the world over 60 years old is expected to increase exponentially, particularly in developing countries where the proportion of older individuals is set to increase from 9% to 16% from 2015 to 2040.
The study’s authors believe that the number of patients with chronic diseases will also rise. In particular, Parkinson’s disease is projected to double between 2005 and 2030.
The study estimates that the number of cases of ALS will increase mainly in developing countries over the next quarter of a century.
Of the countries analyzed, the number of ALS cases seems to be rising substantially in the developing world. Developing countries like China, Iran, Libya, Serbia, Taiwan, and Uruguay, are projected to see a 50% increase in the number of ALS cases from 2015 to 2040. On the contrary, in 2015, 71% of all ALS cases were reported in developed countries, but this number is estimated to drop to 67% by 2040. The overall finding suggests that the weight of the disease is gradually shifting from developed countries to developing countries.
The UN estimates that the number of ALS cases worldwide could increase from 222,801 in 2015 to 376,674 in 2040, representing an increase of 69%. Africa could lead the chart with an increase of 116%, followed by Asia with 81% and South America with 73%.
A recent review indicates that in 2015 the standard annual cost per ALS patient was $69,475 in the U.S., $59,018 in Spain, $47,092 in Germany, $21,732 in the Netherlands and $11,251 in Greece. There are currently no studies calculating the economic burden of ALS in developing countries.
But while economic costs are likely lower in developing nations now, the projected increase in ALS cases also suggests a significant rise in cost burden on health care systems in developing countries over the next decades.
In the current report, authors acknowledged some limitations to the study. For example, the global estimation was likely conservative. Also, the case number calculations relied on published data from country-specific estimates of ALS incidence, which were likely derived using various methodological approaches.
However, a strength of the study was highlighted by study authors. The R code that was used to systematically download data from the U.S. Census International Data Base and calculate the projected number of cases is reproducible and flexible and can be used by other researchers.