The Economic Burden of Alzheimer’s Disease

This is a cross-post from my colleague Amy O’Connor on LillyPad U.S. 

This week, researchers and advocates from around the world convened in Copenhagen, Denmark for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014. The meeting highlighted the latest breakthroughs in research on dementia, and focused on its most common form: Alzheimer’s disease. Recent statistics indicate that an estimated 44 million people live with dementia worldwide. Currently, dementia constitutes the largest single contribution to disability and needs for care among older people, with the current global economic costs totaling U.S. $604 billion (€ 443 Billion).

At the conference, Noam Kirson, an economist with Analysis Group and Lilly collaborator, presented findings on a study entitled, “Assessing the economic burden of Alzheimer’s disease patients treated by specialists on the date of preliminary diagnosis of cognitive decline.” The study demonstrates that patients with Alzheimer’s disease not seen by a specialist at the time of first diagnosis of cognitive decline incurred higher healthcare costs in the year following diagnosis as compared to patients with Alzheimer’s disease who were initially seen by a specialist. The cost difference between the two groups then converged over time. 

Regardless of the setting, the cost of care remains staggering. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the number of people living with dementia could rise to 135 million by 2050, with the impact falling equally on the millions of caretakers around the world. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s disease will not only cripple the families of aging baby boomers, but could also challenge the healthcare systems of many developed nations.

The exponential growth of the disease continues to drive researchers to discover new treatments and potential cures which will lessen the economic impact on patients’ lives. While the complexity of the disease has challenged research efforts, we remain determined to work with scientists, advocates, and other stakeholders from around the world to end Alzheimer’s once and for all.