Epidemiology, Healthcare Resource Utilization and Healthcare Costs for Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Alberta, Canada

Aims: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a progressive neuromuscular disease associated with the degeneration of motor neurons in the brainstem and spinal cord. Studies examining the epidemiology and economic impact of SMA are limited in Canada. This study aimed to estimate the epidemiology as well as healthcare resource utilization (HRU) and healthcare costs for children with SMA in Alberta, Canada.

Materials and Methods: We conducted a retrospective study using anonymized data from administrative healthcare databases provided by Alberta Health. Data from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2018, were extracted for patients <18 years of age identified with SMA. Five-year incidence and prevalence were calculated for cases identified between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2017. HRU and healthcare costs were assessed one year after SMA diagnosis, including hospitalizations, physician visits, ambulatory care visits and long-term care admissions.

Results: The five-year incidence and prevalence of pediatric onset SMA were 1.03 per 100,000 person-years and 9.97 per 100,000 persons, respectively. General practitioner, specialist, and ambulatory care visits were common among children with SMA in the first-year post-diagnosis. The mean (SD) total annual direct cost per patient in the first-year post-diagnosis was $29,774 ($38,407); hospitalizations accounted for 41.7% of these costs ($12,412 [$21,170]), followed by practitioner visits at 32.3% ($9,615 [$13,054]), and ambulatory care visits at 26.0% ($7,746 [$9,988]).

Conclusions: Children with SMA experience substantial HRU, particularly for hospitalizations and practitioner visits, following diagnosis. Given the high costs of SMA, timely access to effective treatment strategies, such as the novel survival motor neuron (SMN)-restoring treatments recently approved for use, are needed to improve health outcomes and HRU.