Patients With Alzheimer's Disease Will Consume a Quarter of Medicare's Spending

By 2050 more than 28 million additional baby boomers will develop Alzheimer's disease and the cost of caring for them will account for nearly one-fourth of Medicare spending by 2040, according to research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

By 2050 more than 28 million additional baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease and the cost of caring for them will account for nearly one-fourth of Medicare spending by 2040, according to new research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2015.

Researchers with The Lewin Group charted the trajectory and economic impact of Alzheimer’s disease using the rate of new diagnoses, the number of people who will be living with the disease and the cost of care between 2015 and 2050. They found that in 2020 the cost of caring for baby boomers with Alzheimer’s will consume 2.1% of Medicare spending ($11.86 billion, in 2014). By 2040, the projected Medicare costs will increase to 24.2% of Medicare spending or $328.15 billion, in 2014 dollars.

“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,” Lisa Alecxih of The Lewin Groups said in a statement.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s by even just 5 years could save $220 billion within the first 5 years if it was introduced in 2015. In addition, the number of people with the disease in 2050 would be reduced by 42%.

“The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, and as baby boomers get older, the number of people developing the disease will rise to levels far beyond anything we’ve ever seen before,” said Maria Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer. “Fortunately, there is a pipeline of experimental therapies that have the potential to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and perhaps even prevent the disease.”

Clinical trial results from 3 studies of investigational therapies related to amyloid protein were presented at AAIC on Wednesday. There was new data from the PRIME study of Biogen’s aducanumab, and results of a discontinued trial showed Roche’s gantenerumab engaged its target in the brain and generated positive biological changes.

Lastly, a delayed-start phase 3 trial suggested that Eli Lilly’s solanezumab may slow the progression of mild Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers randomly assigned patients to start active treatment at the beginning of the study or placed them in the delayed-start group that received a placebo for a period of time before being given the active therapy. They found that the patients in the delayed-start group did not “catch up.” Treatment differences between the 2 groups for cognition and function remained significant through 52 weeks.

“The results support the potential benefit of starting treatment with solanezumab earlier rather than later in disease progression, and suggest there is persistence of treatment effect even after the delayed-start patients are given the drug,” study co-author Paul Aisen, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California, said in a statement.