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Professor Charles Warlaw
"There is a tendency to confuse stroke and heart attack"
 real 28k

Friday, 18 May, 2001, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
Stroke research warning
Stroke damaged hands
Strokes cost the NHS 2.3bn a year
Stroke research is severely underfunded and needs more than charity support to combat a disease which costs the health service more than 2bn a year, according to research.

An investigation funded by the Stroke Association shows that money spent on stroke research falls way behind those of heart disease and cancer - up to 50 times less.


Unless more funding is available for research we will pay an increasingly high price in dealing with the burden of stroke

Dr Peter Rothwell, Radcliffe Infirmary
Each year there are around 125,000 strokes in the UK, accounting for around one in 10 of all deaths.

However, the major burden of a stroke is not death, but chronic disability.

In the UK there are approximately 250,000 disabled stroke survivors.

Ageism

Professor Charles Warlaw, an expert in neurology at Edinburgh University, said it possible that stroke had been neglected because of ageism.

He told the BBC: "If people are ageist they might write off people with strokes, who are more often elderly than young, as not really worthwhile, whereas people with heart attacks tend to be ten years younger."

Professor Warlaw said there was also a mistaken tendency to believe that strokes and heart attacks were the same thing when in fact a stroke affects the brain.

Treatment cost

The treatment of stroke-related disability accounts for 6% of total NHS and social services expenditure - 2.3bn a year.

The Stroke Association claims this figure will rise, due to the growing number of older people in the population, which reinforces the need for further research into prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of stroke survivors.

Dr Peter Rothwell, a consultant neurologist at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford and research fellow at Oxford University, said: "Given the similar clinical and economic burdens, the difference between the research funding available for stroke and that for heart disease and cancer is staggering.

"The ageing of the population in both the developing world and the developed world will lead to a major increase in the number of strokes over the next two decades.

"Unless more funding is available for research into preventive strategies, we will pay an increasingly high price in dealing with the burden of stroke."

Funding imbalance

In 1998/99, research funding from the UK stroke charities was 2.5m per year.

In comparison, the British Heart Foundation spent 43m and the two leading cancer charities - the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research Campaign - spent more than 120m on research.

Eoin Redahan of the Stroke Association said: "We, the UK's main stroke charity, are only able to fund between 8-12% of research applications.

"We are calling on medical charities, funding agencies and the government to take account of the high burden that stroke places on the community and to increase their spending on much needed stroke research."

The findings of the study appear in the Lancet.

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