The rising tide of Alzheimer’s

As the baby boomers shift into retirement, it’s always been known that the prevalence of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) was going to increase. Numbers released last month from the Alzheimer’s Association provided the latest estimate of just how severe the impact will be.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, 5.2 million Americans are currently living with AD, but by 2050, that number will spike to as many as 16 million people aged 65 and older with the disease.

Obviously the emotional toll for AD sufferers and their families is a prime concern, but there will be a massive financial burden as well. The year, the cost of caring for patients with AD and other forms of dementia will be approximately $214 billion. If there are no major advancements in treatments, the national costs will surpass $1 trillion (not adjusted for inflation) by 2050.

Fortunately, there are many researchers working on identifying biomarkers for early detection, which will help in the development of treatments, and while AD research funding has typically lagged behind the resources devoted to cancer or heart disease, there seems to be growing support for AD initiatives. A bipartisan bill introduced in the House on April 4 would coordinate an international effort to combat the disease, with the goal of developing a successful treatment by 2025. In the past month, the Alzheimer’s Association also granted $8 million to research at Harvard Medical School and The Johnson and Johnson Innovation Center announced it was backing a research project with San Francisco-based Alector.

Time will tell if these efforts lead to a cure. As pointed out in the projections from the Alzheimer’s Association, the clock is ticking.

-Evan Godt
Editor – Health Imaging