Epidemiology, treatment and burden of Wilson disease in France: A 10-year analysis of the national health insurance database

Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2022 Dec;46(10):101992. doi: 10.1016/j.clinre.2022.101992. Epub 2022 Jul 3.


Background & aims: Wilson disease (WD) is a rare hereditary, debilitating disease that is fatal if untreated. Given its low prevalence, collecting longitudinal information on large cohorts of patients is challenging. Analysis of health insurance databases offers an approach to meet this challenge. The aim of this study was to evaluate longitudinal trends in the presentation and management of patients with WD identified in the French national health insurance database (SNDS).

Methods: This retrospective, longitudinal, observational study identified people with WD in the SNDS database through hospitalisation diagnosis codes and long-term illness status between 2009 and 2019 inclusive. For each patient, data were extracted on hospitalisations, liver transplantation, mortality, WD-specific treatments (d-penicillamine, trientine and zinc), disability status and sick leave.

Results: 1,928 patients with WD were identified, of whom 1,520 (78.8%) were analysed. Prevalence of WD in 2019 was estimated as 2.2 cases per 100,000. Of the 670 patients first documented between 2010 and 2019, 76.1% were hospitalised at least once for a mean duration of 4.63±10.6 days. 152 patients (10.0%) underwent liver transplantation and 205 died (13.5%). The mean age at death was 57.9 ± 23.1 years. 665 patients (43.8%) received a WD-specific treatment at least once. 167 patients (17.1%) received a government disability pension and 624 (41.1%) benefited from long-term illness status due to WD.

Conclusions: Unexpectedly, less than half of patients with WD received treatment recommended in practice guidelines, which may contribute to a high disease burden in terms of hospitalisations, disability and reduced life expectancy. Improving treatment rates, building patient awareness of long-term disease impact or developing a new paradigm of treatment could make a significant contribution to reducing the disease burden.

Keywords: D-penicillamine; Disability; Mortality; SNDS; Sick leave; Trientine; Wilson's disease; Zinc acetate.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Copper
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration* / epidemiology
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • National Health Programs
  • Penicillamine / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Copper
  • Penicillamine