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Report: More Than 28 Million Baby Boomers Will Develop Alzheimer’s Disease

Disorder will consume nearly 25% of Medicare spending

More than 28 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) between now and midcentury, and the cost of caring for them will consume nearly 25% of Medicare spending in 2040, according to new research reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2015 (AAIC 2015) in Washington, D.C.

If there are no significant advances in AD treatment or prevention, as the baby boomers with AD age, there will be a shift toward more severe forms of the disease, leading to greater Medicare costs, the report warns. In 2020, the projected Medicare costs of caring for baby boomers with AD in the community ($11.86 billion in 2014 dollars) will be 2.1% of total Medicare spending. By 2040, when the baby boom generation is 76 to 94 years of age, the projected Medicare costs ($328.15 billion in 2014 dollars) will increase to 24.2% of total Medicare spending, according to the new analysis.

An Alzheimer’s Association report released this year suggested that the economic and health care burden the U.S. faces over the next two decades could be greatly mitigated if a treatment that delays the onset of AD by 5 years is introduced by 2025. According to the report, a treatment that delays disease onset could save $220 billion within the first 5 years of its introduction. It would also reduce the number of people who have the disease in 2050 by 42% – – from 13.5 million to 7.8 million.

At AAIC 2015, Lisa Alecxih and colleagues from the Lewin Group, Falls Church, Virginia, reported on a model of AD’s incidence, prevalence, and cost that was developed for the Alzheimer’s Association to examine the current and future trajectory and economic impact of the disease.

The research team developed models that chart the trajectory and economic effect of AD based on the rate of new diagnoses, the number of people who will be living with the disease, and the cost of medical and long-term care between 2015 and 2050. They factored in the costs that Medicare pays for beneficiaries with AD, mortality rates and the varying costs of caring for people in different stages of the disease (mild, moderate, or severe).

The model indicated that the prevalence of AD among American baby boomers will increase dramatically from 1.2% in 2020, when most boomers will be in their 60s and early 70s, to 50.1% in 2050, when all of the boomers will be at least 85 years old. This means that by 2040, more than twice as many baby boomers will have AD (10.3 million) compared with the equivalent age group in 2015 (4.7 million).

The model also indicated that when the first baby boomers turn 70 in 2016, the prevalence of AD in their age group will jump from less than 1% among individuals 65 to 69 years of age to nearly 2.5% among individuals aged 70 to 74 years. At the same time, the number of Americans needing care and support for AD will increase dramatically, with huge cost implications for decades to come.

“The findings of this new data analysis make it clear that the increased demand Alzheimer’s will place on the health and social services systems over the next two decades, coupled with the burden on those with the disease and their families, requires additional investment by the federal government,” Alecxih said.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association; July 20, 2015.

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