The cumulative care costs of Alzheimer's disease over the next 40 years will exceed $20 trillion unless treatments to modify or delay onset of the incurable disease are discovered, an Alzheimer's Association report said.
The report, Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer's Disease: A National Imperative examines the outlook for Alzheimer's based on a model from the Lewin Group. It projects that the number of Americans age 65 and older who have Alzheimer's will increase from the 5.1 million today to 13.5 million by mid-century if nothing is done to address the disease.
"We know that Alzheimer's disease is not just ‘a little memory loss'—it is a national crisis that grows worse by the day," said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, in a media release. "Alzheimer's not only poses a significant threat to millions of families, but also drives tremendous costs for government programs like Medicare and Medicaid."
Total costs of care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease by all payers will increase from $172 billion this year to more than $1 trillion in 2050, with Medicare costs increasing more than 600%—from $88 billion today to $627 billion in 2050. Medicaid costs will rise 400%, from $34 billion to $178 billion.
By 2050 48% of the projected 13.5 million people with Alzheimer's will be in the severe stage of the disease—when more expensive, intensive around-the-clock care is needed.
The news is not all bad, however. The report shows that Medicare and Medicaid could see dramatic savings—and lives could be improved—with incremental treatment improvements.
The Lewin Group model projects two scenarios: one in which a disease-modifying treatment delays the onset of Alzheimer's by five years, and another in which a hypothetical treatment slows the progression of the disease.
Under the first model, if a treatment breakthrough that delays the onset of Alzheimer's by five years could be in place by 2015:
The second model that assumes a hypothetical treatment discovered in 2015 could slow the disease's progression projected that:
The Alzheimer Association is calling on the federal government for more Alzheimer's research funding. "Given the magnitude and the impact of this disease, the government's response to this burgeoning crisis has been stunningly neglectful," Johns said. "Alzheimer's is an unfolding natural disaster. The federal government has sent a token response and has no plan."