Rise in Human and Healthcare Costs of Dementia

Rise in Human and Healthcare Costs of Dementia

03.08.12 | By

There are some more warning signs today of the incredible cost of dementia to both patients and our economy. The National Journal reports on a new Alzheimer's Association's 2012 Alzheimer's "Facts and Figures" report, finding that:

"The bill for taking care of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias will reach $200 billion this year in the United States, including $140 billion paid by Medicare and Medicaid."

This is but more proof of the terrible toll Alzheimer's and other dementias are taking on patients, their families and caregivers, and is in line with an earlier Alzheimer's Association study that concluded that the healthcare cost of Alzheimer's disease will reach $1 trillion a year by 2050.

Needless to say, many trillions of dollars will be spent as the cost of care climbs to that annual rate.

Many positive efforts to limit and even reduce healthcare costs - earlier intervention, better disease management, better adherence to medical recommendations - could all be undermined if new and better treatments for Alzheimer's and other dementias are not researched and developed. Certainly, there is some promise. As of 2010, we reported that America's biopharmaceutical research companies are today working on nearly 100 new medicines to treat Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. When that report was released in 2012, the estimated annual cost of treating dementias was approximately $172 billion a year to our healthcare system.

And, also needless to say, though we often talk about costs of care, we sometimes forget that we're talking about people -- individual patients whose lives and families are often devastated by dementia. Today, over 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and some 800,000 of them live on their own without family or in a care facility, according to the study released today. That number is growing, heading to the 13 to 15 million cases that, if nothing changes, the Alzheimer's Association predicts by 2050. The purely human toll of this condition should mobilize us all to greater efforts to find new treatments and, one day, a cure.

All of which brings us back to the imperative to increase research and spur and reward innovation. We need new and better medical tools to check the growing tide of Alzheimer's cases - medicines we simply don't have today. Medicines that -- even were an important breakthrough to come tomorrow - would take years to test and develop and make ready for patient use.

Ultimately, Alzheimer's disease is but one of the healthcare challenges we face in the coming years - especially with an ageing population. Cancer, diabetes and heart disease also loom large in their projected human and economic costs. Work is being done to find solutions. More research and development is necessary and underscores why we need an economy and a developmental eco-system that spurs and rewards medical innovation.

Follow Grady on Twitter @GradyAtPhRMA

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