SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As champagne corks are popping this New Year’s Eve, the first American Baby Boomers will turn age 65. This generation, which transformed American politics and culture, is expected to usher in yet another momentous change -- an increase in the number of Alzheimer's disease patients.
Although Alzheimer's is not a natural condition of aging, the vast majority of patients diagnosed with the disease are ages 65 and over. As the senior population in the United States more than doubles between now and 2050, to about 88.5 million, the number of Alzheimer's patients will more than double as well unless new treatments to prevent, arrest or cure the disease are found.
In California alone, the amount of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is projected to increase to 660,000 by 2025, which represents a 50 percent increase from 2000. The total hours of unpaid care given by those caregivers increased to 1,404,327,156 in 2009 from 952,172,799 in 2007, and the total value of that unpaid care increased to $16,149,762,293 in 2009 from $10,073,988,212 in 2007.
"The amount of suffering that will accompany the diagnosis of Alzheimer's for 13.5 million Americans is unacceptable, and the cost will be unsustainable," said John Castellani, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). "In millions of American homes, Alzheimer's disease already presents a crisis. The expected increase in Alzheimer's patients portends not only more personal pain and grief, but a national crisis."
If no medical progress is made, the cost of caring for Alzheimer's patients will rise to $1.08 trillion by 2050, according to an estimate by the Alzheimer's Association. That is more than the current U.S. Department of Defense budget. It is nearly 25 times more than this year's entire Department of Homeland Security budget.
America's biopharmaceutical companies are currently researching 98 medicines for dementia, mostly Alzheimer's, according to a report released by PhRMA.
All 98 are either in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The work indicates a major commitment to combating Alzheimer's, given that each new medicine costs, on average, more than $1 billion to research and develop.
"Alzheimer's disease is the health care crisis of our generation and our children's generation," said George Vradenburg, chairman of USAgainstAlzheimers, a patient advocacy group. "Ten million American Baby Boomers will die of the disease, and Medicare and Medicaid will go bankrupt without action. The rising cost of caring for Alzheimer's patients will amount to an astounding cumulative total of $2 trillion between now and 2020, and it will accelerate at an unsustainable rate thereafter. Researchers say we can stop Alzheimer's by 2020, but only if we invest public and private resources to find a cure."
The brain disease recognized more than 100 years ago has eluded scientists searching for solutions. Despite great effort, there are only five FDA-approved medicines available to patients. While these medicines temporarily treat the symptoms for some, they do not alter the course of the disease, which eventually leads to death.
"Public awareness and a commitment to medical innovation are critical in the fight against Alzheimer's," said Castellani.
The California Partnership for Access to Treatment (CPAT) is a diverse network of advocacy organizations, community groups, health care providers and employers, committed to ensuring a healthy and productive California. CPAT serves as a communications, education and resource network to keep its partners and the communities they serve informed about critical issues involving access to treatment in California. To learn more about CPAT, visit www.caaccess.org.