America’s Most Expensive Disease: Dementia

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Heart disease and cancer are no longer the most costly diseases in the United States in economic terms.


Dementia, a new research study says, now poses the largest financial burden on Americans and the health care system, with future costs expected to soar even higher.


The study, financed by the federal government and carried out by the RAND Corporation, found that direct health care costs for dementia, including nursing home care, were $109 billion in 2010—more than the total for heart disease ($102 billion) or for cancer ($77 billion).


The study also determined that the cost of informal care for dementia, usually borne by families, ranged from $50 billion to $106 billion.


Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, chairman of the advisory panel to the federal government’s National Alzheimer’s Plan, told The New York Times (NYT) that the aging baby boom generation will produce an unprecedented number of dementia cases that are “going to swamp the system.”


“I don’t know of any other disease predicting such a huge increase,” Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, which financed the RAND study, told the NYT. “And as we have the baby boomer group maturing, there are going to be more older people with fewer children to be informal caregivers for them, which is going to intensify the problem even more.”


It is estimated that nearly 15% of people aged 71 or older (about 3.8 million people) have dementia. That number is projected to skyrocket to 9.1 million people by 2040.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Monetary Costs of Dementia in the United States (by Michael D. Hurd, Paco Martorell, Adeline Delavande, Kathleen J. Mullen, and Kenneth M. Langa, New England Journal of Medicine)

Dementia Care Cost Is Projected to Double by 2040 (by Pam Belluck, New York Times)

Dementia Tab Set to Top $200 Billion (by Kathleen Struck, MedPage Today)

Eli Lilly Pushed Useless Drug for Dementia (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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