Growing Alzheimer’s epidemic could cripple healthcare
11 June 2007
Washington D.C., USA. The rapidly increasing number of
people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease could cripple healthcare services
in the next few decades. This follows the recent warning that another modern
epidemic, diabetes, could do the same (see
international action on biggest epidemic in human history — diabetes).
The latest estimate is that 26.6 million people were suffering from
Alzheimer’s disease worldwide in 2006, and it will rise to 100m by 2050 — 1
in 85 of the total population. More than 40% of those cases will be in
late-stage Alzheimer’s, requiring a high level of attention equivalent to
nursing home care.
The report was presented at The Alzheimer’s Association International
Conference on Prevention of Dementia, which is being held in Washington,
USA, this week. The research was led by Dr Ron Brookmeyer, Professor of
Biostatistics and Chair of the Master of Public Health Program at The Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore.
The goal of the study was to forecast the global burden of Alzheimer’s
disease and evaluate the potential impact of being able to delay the onset
of the disease on the world population.
“The number of people affected by
Alzheimer’s disease is growing at an alarming rate, and the increasing
financial and personal costs will have a devastating effect on the world’s
economies, healthcare systems and families,” said Dr William Thies, vice
president of Medical and Scientific Relations with the Alzheimer's
“We must make the fight against Alzheimer’s a national priority before
it’s too late. The absence of effective disease-modifying drugs, coupled
with an aging population, makes Alzheimer’s the healthcare crisis of the
“However, there is hope. There are several drugs in Phase
III clinical trials for Alzheimer’s that show great promise to slow or stop
the progression of the disease. This, combined with advancements in
diagnostic tools, has the potential to change the landscape of Alzheimer’s,
but we need more funding for research to make this happen,” Thies said.
“The astronomical costs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
have a tremendous impact on individuals living with the disease, their loved
ones and society as a whole,” said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the
“We must increase funding for research on treatment, prevention and early
detection. And until we defeat this disease, we must provide better care for
people with dementia and their families. The advancements we make in
treatment and prevention now will save millions of dollars and lives in the
near future,” he said.
Effect of interventions
found a significant effects from what may seem like small outcomes:
- Delaying Alzheimer’s disease onset by one year would reduce the
number of Alzheimer's cases in 2050 by 12 million.
- Delaying both Alzheimer’s disease onset and disease progression by
two years would reduce burden by more than 18 million cases, with most
of that decrease — 16 million cases — among late-stage cases that
require the most intensive care.
A separate study has found that the doubling time for the incidence of
Alzheimer’s disease was 5.5 years, and this was the same throughout the
world and for both men and women. This study, conducted by Dr Kathryn
Ziegler-Graham, visiting assistant professor in Statistics at St. Olaf
College in Northfield, Minnesota and colleagues, looked at research
reporting age-specific incidence rates for Alzheimer’s disease.
Brookmeyer, R. Forecasting the global prevalence and burden of
Ziegler-Graham, K. Worldwide variation in the doubling time of
Alzheimer’s disease incidence rates.
The Alzheimer’s Association: www.alz.org.
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