The mind is a terrible thing to waste—the global burden of caring for people with dementia is so big that its costs now exceed total annual health spending in the world’s five largest economies outside the US.
The World Alzheimer Report 2010, recently published by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), outlines the global economic impact of dementia. The report, authored by Professor Anders Wimo of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden; and Professor Martin Prince of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College in London, provides the most current and comprehensive global picture of the economic and social impact of the illness.
By the end of this year, the report states, the worldwide costs of dementia will exceed 1 percent of global GDP, reaching US $604 billion. To further illustrate the economic gravity, the report makes the following comparisons: If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy; if it were a company, it would be the world’s largest by annual revenue, exceeding Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil.
Through shocking statistics like these, the report illustrates the high cost to economies and societies of failing to address dementia and associated central nervous system (CNS) diseases through new drug therapies.
With the number of people with dementia likely to double by 2030 and triple by 2050, the disconnect between the need and the availability of new treatments must be understood and addressed. However, funding for new discoveries in the CNS field can be a challenge. Research from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development reveals that CNS therapies take the longest time to bring to market and incur the highest development costs of any of the major therapeutic categories in medicine.
“The scale of this crisis cries out for global action,” says Marc Wortmann, executive director of ADI.
The report—which uses representative population-based samples from developing countries—aims to be the catalyst for the global action Wortmann calls for, suggesting that governments worldwide “should act urgently to make Alzheimer’s Disease a top priority and develop national plans” to better handle the issue.
Additionally, the report urges governments in every nation to increase research funding; develop policies and plans for long-term care; anticipate and address social and demographic trends; and to make the issue a top priority for the World Health Organization.
The authors and experts interviewed for the study contend that prevention is the optimal path with drug therapies that can slow the onset of disability due to dementia.