Background: Pyridostigmine is the first drug of choice for patients with myasthenia gravis (MG). The drug is not prescribed regularly to any other patient groups. We aimed to determine the prevalence, incidence and gender-specific characteristics of patients with MG needing drug treatment in a well-defined population cohort.
Methods: Data were retrieved from the Norwegian Prescription Database (NorPD) 2004–2007, containing information on all dispensed drugs in Norway. The study population comprised 677 recipients of pyridostigmine who met the following inclusion criteria (one or more): (i) More than one prescription 1 January 2004–31 December 2007, (ii) prescription from a specialist in neurology, (iii) prescription for MG being specified in NorPD.
Results: A total of 435 (64%) women and 242 men were included; female:male ratio 1.8:1. Point prevalence (1 January 2008) of symptomatic MG was 131 per million; 92 for men, 170 for women. Seventy-four new users of pyridostigmine were registered in 2007 (42 women, 32 men), i.e. the incidence rate for 2007 being 16 per million; 14 for men, 18 for women. Mean age of incident cases was 59 years; 64 and 55 years, respectively. Prevalence and incidence were significantly higher in the age group ≥50 years than <50 years (P < 0.001), and highest at 70–79 years. Prevalence and incidence did not differ in the five geographical health regions in Norway.
Conclusions: Reported prevalence and incidence are amongst the highest found in similar studies. This may be explained by optimal case identification, higher incidence of drug requiring MG amongst the elderly, and recurrences of previous MG.