Alzheimer's Disease Cases Will Triple By 2050: Thanks To Baby Boomers
February 7, 2013

Alzheimer’s Disease Cases Will Triple By 2050: Thanks To Baby Boomers

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

The Baby Boomers, those born in the post-World War II Era between 1946 and 1964, are on the doorstep of a major health crisis that is set to plague the US healthcare system in the coming years. A new study published Feb. 6 in the journal Neurology states that the number of people with Alzheimer´s disease will nearly triple in the next 40 years, placing a massive burden on society.

This health crisis, due to the baby boom generation, will affect all areas of the healthcare network, from potential caregivers to “medical and social safety nets,” according to study coauthor Jennifer Weuve, MPH, ScD, assistant professor of medicine, Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Weuve said in a statement that this study “draws attention to an urgent need for more research, treatments and preventive strategies to reduce this epidemic.”

The numbers are projected to rise from close to 5 million US Alzheimer´s patients now to 13.8 million by 2050, according to the study.

"We're going to need coordinated efforts for this upcoming epidemic,'' Weuve told USA Today´s Janice Lloyd in an interview. “People have trouble getting their heads around these numbers, but imagine if everyone in the state of Illinois (population 12.8 million) had Alzheimer's. I look around Chicago and can't imagine it.”

Alzheimer´s, a disease which robs people of cognition, affecting their memory, thinking, behavior and motor skills, has no effective treatment or cure, and there is currently no way to prevent the disease from occurring. Still, the US government has boosted funding and has set a preventive goal for 2025, in the form of President Obama´s National Alzheimer´s Plan.

Funding for Alzheimer´s research, while finally surpassing $500 million in 2012, is still lagging in the medical research field. Other health threats, such as those for HIV and cancer are in the billions. Currently, funding for Alzheimer´s is $606 million, with another $100 million awaiting approval, according to the Alzheimer´s Association.

"We've had great success in this country when we've decided to focus on a condition,'' Weuve said. “We've done it with good research in heart disease, cancer and HIV, but we are in our infancy when it comes to Alzheimer's research.”

For the study, Weuve and her colleagues analyzed information from nearly 11,000 African-American and Caucasian people in Chicago, ages 65 and older, between 1993 and 2011. Study participants were interviewed and assessed for dementia every three years, and several factors (age, race, education) were taken into account for the research.

The authors then combined the data with US death rates, education and current and future population estimates from the US Census Bureau.

The numbers showed the projected number of people living with Alzheimer´s by 2050 was 13.8 million, a nearly nine-million-person hike from 2010. Furthermore, roughly seven million of those with the disease would be age 85 or older in 2050.

"Our detailed projections use the most up-to-date data, but they are similar to projections made years and decades ago. All of these projections anticipate a future with a dramatic increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's and should compel us to prepare for it," said Weuve.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has said that as the population ages, the threat of Alzheimer´s increases. We currently have drugs that can treat symptoms of Alzheimer´s, yet we do not have a treatment that can stop the progression of the disease, it maintained.

Eli Lilly and Co. failed in its recent attempts to provide a viable treatment option for the disease. A trial last summer involving its solanezumab failed to meet the primary goals in two patient studies, although it showed a slight benefit when the studies were pooled to look at the effect on those with a mild form of the disease. Lilly said it plans to conduct new clinical trials in Alzheimer´s patients this year.

“We need to put the pedal to the metal on research,” said George Vradenburg, chairman of advocacy group USAgainstAlzheimers. “We need to find a way to prevent this terrible disease.”

This study follows in the footsteps of a forecast by the World Health Organization (WHO) last April, which said the Alzheimer´s cases would more than triple from 35.6 million to 115 million worldwide by 2050.

The WHO added that at least 65 million people will suffer from some form of dementia by 2030, of which 58 percent will occur in developing nations.