University of Pennsylvania Study Find Racial Differences in Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

A new study conducted at the Pereleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, finds that African American with Parkinson’s disease are less likely than Whites with the disease to receive deep brain stimulation surgery to reduce tremors. Parkinson’s disease affects more than 2 million Americans. Deep brain stimulation surgery has been shown to be effective but involves extensive pre-operative testing and may include costs not covered by many insurance plans, including Medicare.

The study examined the cases of 8,420 patients who received deep brain stimulation surgery. While 5.5 percent of all Parkinson’s disease patients were African Americans, only 1 percent of the patients who received deep brain stimulation surgery were African Americans.

willisAllison Willis, an assistant professor of neurology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study, stated, “There are widespread disparities among Parkinson’s patients that are restricting equal utilization of evidence-based care, limiting patients’ quality of life and increasing societal and health care costs. Efforts to overcome these disparities, through policy or reimbursement changes, can benefit socioeconomically disadvantaged patients with Parkinson’s disease.”

Dr. Willis earned her medical degree at the University of Illinois and holds a master’s degree in clinical investigation from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The article, “Disparities in Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery Among Insured Elders With Parkinson Disease,” was published in the journal Neurology. It may be accessed here.

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