November 15, 2001
Research Study Shows Little-Known Nerve Disease - Neuropathy
- Impacting Millions of Americans and Costing Billions
- A little-known nerve disease -- neuropathy -- is impacting millions
of Americans at a cost of billions of dollars annually reports The
Neuropathy Association (http://www.neuropathy.org/ ) today in the release of
the first nationwide study of a disease that often goes undiagnosed.
The research study was conducted based on recipients of Medicare benefits by
Muse Associates, a Washington, D.C., research firm. The just-released study,
"The Incidence, Characteristics and Costs of Medicare Beneficiaries with
Neuropathy," was conducted on 1999 Medicare records and revealed 3.4 million
Medicare beneficiaries with neuropathy accounted for $3.5 billion in claims.
This did not include costs of most prescription and non-prescription drugs
as Medicare does not cover drugs. The association calls for an expanded U.S.
general population study as large proportions of neuropathy sufferers are
under 65 years of age.
"Neuropathy may be the most prevalent undiagnosed and often untreatable
nerve disease known to medicine today," said Dr. Norman Latov, director of
The Neuropathy Center of Weill Cornell Medical College and medical and
scientific director of The Neuropathy Association.
"There may be as many as 20 million Americans suffering from this disease
which can be debilitating as its symptoms include imbalance, weakness and
severe pain and/or numbness in the limbs, including feet, legs, hands and
arms," said Dr. Latov.
Neuropathy recently received media attention because of the forced
retirement of Senator Jesse Holmes who announced he had the disease and is
dependent upon a motorized scooter. Other notables acknowledging having the
disease include actor Andy Griffith and chef/TV personality Julia Childs.
"A major problem with neuropathy is that the disease does not have a poster
child or a star advocate to garner public support and research funds," said
Arlen R. Lessin, a business technology consultant who has had neuropathy for
several years. "As a result, there is minimal research into causes or
The Muse Associates study also revealed that the 144 million neuropathy-
associated claims were 8.6 percent of all Medicare claimants in 1999.
Approximately one third of the Medicare beneficiaries with a primary
diagnosis of neuropathy had at least one secondary diagnosis on their
primary neuropathy claims. Diabetic patients are a major segment of
peripheral neuropathy patients but other medical diagnoses associated with
the Medicare neuropathy beneficiaries included heart disease, kidney
failure, and respiratory problems.
According to Dr. Latov, many people who suffer from the disease are unaware
they have neuropathy. "The disease appears in many different forms and it is
believed that certain toxins and chemicals are among its causes."
"It is urgent that the appropriate foundations and government and research
agencies address the oversight of neuropathy and thereby provide relief and
answers for millions of sufferers," said Lessin who is leading a neuropathy
fundraising and awareness drive for The Neuropathy Association.