Epidemiological trends in the last decade have shown a significant increase in the burden of chronic illnesses globally, such as the growing epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In the beginning of this new year and a new decade, GlobalData will look toward the future and examine three important diseases that you may not be aware of that also have seen significant patient size growth historically and will likely have high impact in the global healthcare space in the coming decade. We will be taking a close look at chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): COPD is a progressive disease that cannot be reversed and cannot be cured. COPD prevalence steadily increases with age and is often underdiagnosed. COPD prevalent cases are expected to increase in the coming decade, as the elderly population increases globally. COPD growth in Asia-Pacific countries is especially notable.

A study of national-level cross-sectional surveys in China by Fang and colleagues in 2018 found that COPD total prevalence in adults ages 40 years and older increased by 40%, from 8.2% in 2002–2004 to 13.6% in 2014–2015. Driving factors for this increase include continued high levels of cigarette smoking and exposure to environmental pollution. India also experiences a disproportionally high burden of COPD. Salvi and colleagues’ study in Lancet in 2018 reported that of the total global deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) caused by COPD, 32% were due to COPD burden in India.

Kidney Cancer: Kidney cancer has seen a worldwide increase as reported by GLOBOCAN 2012, compared with earlier publications of GLOBOCAN 2008 and 2002. Most notably, the UK and Japan have seen strong increasing trends in the past decade. In the UK, kidney cancer increased by 38% in men and 42% in women from 2000–2010. Kidney cancer is linked to obesity and smoking, and the striking increase in incidence rate is likely due to the effect of a high prevalence of obesity worldwide.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD): The burden of AD is expected to increase globally, most importantly due to the increase in the elderly population. The global increase in diabetes may also contribute to the increase in AD, as having diabetes doubles a person’s risk of developing AD. Researchers also suggest that other dementia diseases such as Parkinson’s disease are on the increase as well.

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The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) research fund database showed that AD has been the highest funded single disease category since 2015. For 2020, the NIH is estimating that $2.1M will go towards Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias research, a significant increase from $631M in 2015.

While public health programs still need to focus on major chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, we cannot overlook other diseases that have seen significant increases in patient size. COPD and AD all have significant diagnosis gaps, where up to 50% of cases may be undiagnosed. In the oncology space, compared with many other cancer diseases that have seen a stable incidence or even large decreases in incidence, such as prostate cancer and cervical cancer, the rise in kidney cancers is very concerning.

It will be crucial to continue to monitor the epidemiology developments of these three diseases in the coming decade and dedicate resources to improve disease diagnosis and awareness.