Introduction: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is one of the most frequent autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorders. It leads to progressive muscle weakness, premature death or permanent ventilation. Significant disability, scoliosis, severe pulmonary infections and other problems require in- and outpatient medical care. Various approaches have been used to evaluate SMA epidemiology, healthcare burden and adherence to standard of care. The recent introduction of pharmacological treatment in a large SMA population will change the course of the disease and the healthcare requirements of patients.
Material and methods: We have used the National Health Fund database to identify children with SMA and the healthcare service they received in the pre-pharmacological treatment era. Pivotal phase II and III medical trials for nusinersen were conducted between 2013 and 2015. The National Treatment Programme of SMA patients with nusinersen in our country was started in January 2019. The year 2014 was used to evaluate incident cases.
Results: 51 new SMA cases (incidence 1:7,356) and 518 SMA patients younger than 18 were identified in 2014. 32 (6.2%) deaths were recorded, half in the first two years of life. 35 (6.8%) patients received palliative and 115 (22.2%) long-term care (including assisted ventilation). A total number of 3,057 days of hospital stay were reported. Only 65/518 (12.6%) patients did not receive publicly-funded healthcare service other than specialist or general practitioner's consultation.
Conclusions: SMA caused significant mortality and morbidity in children. The National Health Fund database can be used to reliably record incident cases and track the care provided to paediatric SMA patients.
Keywords: epidemiology; healthcare burden; incidence; spinal muscular atrophy.