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November 15, 2001

Research Study Shows Little-Known Nerve Disease - Neuropathy - Impacting Millions of Americans and Costing Billions


 (SafetyAlerts) -  A little-known nerve disease -- neuropathy -- is impacting millions of Americans at a cost of billions of dollars annually reports The Neuropathy Association ( ) 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 pharmacological treatments."

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.

Source: PRNewswire.

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