New Report Warns of Growing Cost of Treating Alzheimer’s Disease 

Dr. Brian Ott on Alzheimer's Disease

Brian R. Ott, M.D, Director, The Alzheimer’s Disease & Memory Disorders Center, reviews patient’s MRI scan

For the second consecutive year, total payments to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will surpass $277 billion, which includes an increase of nearly $20 billion from last year, according to data reported in “Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” released on March 20, 2018.

The Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures, first released in 2007, is a compilation of state and national specific statistics and information detailing the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias on individuals, their families, state and federal government and the nation’s health care system.

“This year’s report illuminates the growing cost and impact of Alzheimer’s on the nation’s health care system, and also points to the growing financial, physical and emotional toll on families facing this disease,” said Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, in a statement.

“Soaring prevalence, rising mortality rates and lack of an effective treatment all lead to enormous costs to society. Alzheimer’s is a burden that’s only going to get worse. We must continue to attack Alzheimer’s through a multidimensional approach that advances research while also improving support for people with the disease and their caregivers,” adds Fargo.

“Discoveries in science mean fewer people are dying at an early age from heart disease, cancer and other diseases. “Similar scientific breakthroughs are needed for Alzheimer’s disease, and will only be achieved by making it a national health care priority and increasing funding for research that can one day lead to early detection, better treatments and ultimately a cure,” says Fargo.

Updated Facts and Figures

The researchers estimate that every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia. By mid-century, someone throughout the nation will develop the disease every 33 seconds.  The devastating cognitive disorder is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and it is the fifth-leading cause of death for those age 65 and older.

New findings from the 88-page report reveal the growing burden on 16.3 million caregivers providing 18.4 billion hours of care valued at over $ 232 billion to 5.7 million people with the devastating mental disorder.

By 2025 – just seven years from now – the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is estimated to reach 7.1 million (two-thirds are women) – an increase of almost 29 percent from the 5.5 million ages 65 and older affected in 2018. By 2050, the report projects that the number of persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will rise to nearly 14 million, with the total cost of care skyrocketing to more than $1.1 trillion (for health care, long-term care and hospice care).

Between 2000 and 2015 deaths from health disease nationwide decreased by 11 percent but deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 123 percent, says the new data in the report, noting that one out of three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.  It even kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, notes the report.

Alzheimer’s Disease Becoming Major Public Health Issue

The Alzheimer Association’s report’s data detailing the skyrocketing increase in incidents of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias does not surprise Dr. Brian R. Ott, Professor, Department of Neurology at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who does acknowledge that some inroads toward reducing cases of dementia over the past few decades have been made by controlling other health problems like hypertension.

But, Ott, who serves as Director of The Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital, predicts that the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to rise tremendously over the coming decades as baby boomers come of age.  “This new population of elders is expected to live longer, thus leading to the so-called “tsunami” of Alzheimer’s disease, since this cognitive disorder becomes increasingly prevalent as we age,” he says.

“Alzheimer’s Disease clearly constitutes a major public health issue, with the numbers of new cases expected to rise in some areas of the country by as much as 70% by 2025.  This will place a tremendous burden on our health care system, unless we find a treatment that can significantly slow the disease and delay its onset,” warns Ott.

It is good news that Alzheimer’s disease research is now receiving the attention of Congress, says Ott, noting that H.R.1625, the omnibus spending bill, was recently passed that increases funding for the National Institute of Health’s Alzheimer’s research by $ 414 million.  This new funding brings Federal government spending on Alzheimer’s research funding to $1.8 billion, he says, marking the third consecutive historic increase by the federal government for Alzheimer’s and dementia research.

“Now, there are over 100 drugs currently in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s Disease right now in the nation,” says Ott, noting that these pharmaceuticals are aimed at a number of different targets of the disease that could lead to an effective disease modifying treatment.

“While this large and promising pipeline of drugs gives us hope that we will put the brakes on the rising incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, the major limiting factor now is recruitment of volunteers for all of these studies.  Making the public aware of our recent advances in research and the local availability of these clinical trials is a key factor in hastening the progress to end Alzheimer’s disease,” says Ott.

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