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Washington Times: Nation faces stiff bill in Alzheimer’s care

July 22, 2015
News Stories

Washington Times - Andrew Nachemson

Alzheimer’s advocates are warning that Medicare and the national health system will be swamped by costs and patient loads in the coming years if no action is taken to prepare for a projected huge increase in the caseload as baby boomers enter their senior years.

At a major conference on the mind-wasting disease held in Washington this week, Alzheimer’s experts and lawmakers said that a failure by the federal government to spend money on research and prevention in the very short term could mean societal costs will grow exponentially in the next decade.

“It will cost us more in the long run if we don’t invest now,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican. “Alzheimer’s is probably the most expensive single disease that we have with no cure.”

A recent survey by the Alzheimer's Association projects that, by 2050, 50 percent of baby boomers (or 28 million individuals) will develop Alzheimer’s, consuming nearly 25 percent of all Medicare spending. The looming bill was the focus of a major panel discussion Tuesday at this week’s gathering featuring both lawmakers and leading researchers.

The Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, passed in late 2014, requires that the National Institutes of Health submit a budget every year on efforts to curtail the disease by 2025.

The Alzheimer's Association said that, in order to stay on course, Congress must provide at least an additional $300 million in NIH research funding for the 2016 fiscal year. This would raise the total to $886 million next year.

Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Pennsylvania Democrat who serves with Mr. Cole on the House Committee on Appropriations, said increased Alzheimer’s funding “is just common sense, and we have got to do more.”

According to the association, in 2015 Alzheimer’s cost the United States an estimated $226 billion, and given current projections, “cumulatively, between now and 2050, it will cost $20.8 trillion, with more than half of the cost being borne by Medicare.”

“For every $26,000 Medicare and Medicaid spent caring for people with Alzheimer’s, the NIH only spends $100 on Alzheimer’s research,” according to the group.

Raj Long, an expert on dementia drug development and regulation, said she was “surprised and impressed” by the bipartisan support in the U.S. government for increased spending for Alzheimer’s research, and said advocates for increased funding and support should take advantage of the support.

“This is a very opportunistic moment for dementia research development.”

Ms. Long, who has done research for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the next step in the process is international cooperation. She said she supported development on a global level, culminating in the eventual creation of an International Dementia Advisory Board.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” she declared.

Online: Washington Times