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Cost of Treating Alzheimer's to Soar

Treating Alzheimer’s disease is already expensive business - now costing the U.S. $307 billion each year. But as the baby boomer population ages, the annual cost of treatment is expected to nearly quintuple to $1.5 trillion, according to a study from the University of Southern California.

Published in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy, the study used modeling by the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics that shows the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease soaring from 3.6 million to 9.1 million between the years 2010 and 2050.

At the same time, the per-patient cost of treatment is expected to double during that time from its 2010 annual price tag of $71,000, researchers say.

One reason why Alzheimer's carries such a heavy financial burden is that those with it need long-term caregiver assistance. That help comes either from paid providers or family members who often must abandon jobs to do so. And those in the latter stages of the disease typically require 24-hour care provided by an institution. Right now, Medicare and Medicaid absorb about 75 percent of the nationwide costs of the disease.

The study calls for more investment in research into ways to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, noting that later onset would not only generate improvements in quality of life for patients and their families but also would bring about major financial savings to society.

Specifically, researchers calculated that a five-year delay in Alzheimer’s onset extends the patient's by about 2.7 years. They also found that by 2050, such a delay in onset would result in a 41 percent lower prevalence of the disease in the population, which would lower the overall costs to society by 40 percent.

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