Parkinson’s Survey Finds Strong Adherence to Medicines, Depression Higher Among Men

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Adherence to medicines is high among Parkinson’s disease patients regardless of income level, but more men with the disease are likely to feel depressed than women, according to a survey with over 5,000 responses to questions about the daily challenges of life with PD.

The Parkinson’s Disease Patient Report 2017 survey conducted on GeneFo, an online patient community, was led by Dr. Yael Wilnai, a Stanford University geneticist.

Overall, its findings shed new light on some aspects of the condition that might need to be taken into consideration by researchers, clinicians, and even policymakers. It looked at specific issues, including lifestyle choices  and medication use to disease onset.

In relation to symptom management and lifestyle, findings showed PD patients are slowly adopting alternative therapies to ease physical and emotional issues. Most likely, this is partially because of the lack of prescription options and coverage for these therapies. Physical therapy leads the chart (35 percent) among patient choices, but “no therapy” was the answer given by 28 percent of the respondents, a higher portion than those undergoing psychotherapy (10 percent) or seeing a chiropractor (8.8 percent).

More than one in every two patients responding also said they had not altered their diet; those who did generally favored a low-fat (15.4 percent) and low-salt (12.6 percent) diet.

Patients who had undergone genetic testing tended to be wealthier, with an average household income of $83,000. Because this is a higher than the national average, it was seen to raise questions regarding accessibility of genetic testing, important because  PD is estimated to have genetic background in over 20 percent of cases.

But the survey  unveiled high levels of adherence to medication, with 84 percent of respondents saying they took medicines regularly — an answer that crossed income levels, expressed degree of trust in their doctors or mood. Only  5 percent reported low adherence.

Many also took supplements, with vitamin D being used by almost 41 percent of respondents and a multivitamin by almost 31 percent.

The survey also looked at differences between genders, focusing on less studied aspects. For instance, regarding mood, 31 percent more women than men reported feeling happy. Likewise, 22 percent more men than women reported feeling depressed, and 15 percent more men reported feeling anxious.

Men also lead in saying that they trusted their doctor’s recommendations, 30 percent more men did than women. Perhaps consequently, men are also 10 percent more likely to fully adhere to their prescribed medication than women. Reviewers speculated that women are more likely to seek information by themselves or on the internet, and may be more proactive at searching for alternate treatments.

But much more men reported using such alternatives as homeopathy than did women (17 percent versus 1.5 percent). Music was also preferred by men (46.3 percent versus 35 percent), while both meditation and prayer were favored by women  (35 percent for both among women responders compared to 19.5 percent on meditation and 12 percent for prayer among men).

GeneFo is a free online platform that offers Parkinson’s patients a forum to discuss aspects of their condition, support and educational resources.

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