Saturday, June 19, 2010

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: As Alzheimer's Increases, Government Funding to Combat Alzheimer's Decreases

The June 17th issue of The Economist features an important article on the penny-wise-pound-foolish nature of America's health expenditures on Alzheimer's Disease (AD.)

As the magazine notes, AD costs the US some $170 billion a year.   And the number of Americans suffering from AD is projected to triple by 2050.

Yet the NIH is cutting back on anti-AD research, thus condeming us all to a terrible public-health and fiscal fate.  As the magazine explains:

Yet Alzheimer’s research, on which the NIH spent $643m in 2006, is to receive only $480m in 2011. It has not been singled out for these cuts. They are part of a general belt-tightening at the agency. But in this as in everything, you get what you pay for. And that might, in the future, be an awful lot of witless, wandering elderly.


It might not be so bad that the government is cutting back if the private sector were making up the difference.  But there's plenty of evidence that Pharma companies have hit a wall.   As The Economist notes, Pfizer just abandoned its effort on the anti-AD drug Dimebon, after having spent $725 million.

Making drugs is hard--harder, even than plugging oil spills.   So absent suitable incentivizing and/or prodding, it’s possible that the drug companies will work on something else.

So clearly, leadership is needed.  But from where is it going to come?  The White House? The Congress?  The private sector?  Philanthropy?   And it's not just money that's needed,
 of course: To cure AD, we will need to reform the FDA, clear away the trial lawyers, and probably revisit intellectual property rules.   


And by the way, there's political advantage to be had here.   The elderly vote in disproportionate numbers; if one politician, or one party, emerges as a clear champion of effective AD research--that is, genuine victory, as opposed to just propping up the status quo--it's a safe bet that that politician/party will reap a substantial political reward at the polls.   

The alternative to effective leadership is a continuation of the current system, which is to say, fiscal disaster: A big chunk of our population comes down with AD, and we pay the bills for their futile care over the course of decades    That's a grey dawn, indeed.  



It would be a lot cheaper, as well as more humane, if we could figure out a cure for AD, focusing on it as we did with polio and AIDS.    And who knows--if we could figure out a cure, here in the US, we would have a new precious export. 

11 comments:

  1. We won't become preoccupied with AD precisely because we are preoccupied with ED

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  2. I agree, “The alternative to leadership IS fiscal disaster.”

    And I believe it will be a moral disaster too, spelt Euthanasia: the expressed intention of ending a life to relieve Financial suffering!

    Hell, we now kill babies in late term abortions who could even have one foot out of the womb; why not kill old geezers who have one foot in the grave?

    Makes sense to bean counters. Yes? I’ll be 68 soon. I probably wont be around when the “Baby Boomers” get their “BOOT”.

    How many have seen the movie Soylent Green? In it Edward G. Robinson plays the victim to a Hannibal Lecter Government gone mad. Glenn Beck was just saying that if you want to see the future, our best bet is to read fiction authors, like Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn. There is a lot of truth in that.

    I join you Jim in your dream: “It would be a lot cheaper, as well as more humane, if we could figure out a cure for AD, focusing on it as we did with polio and AIDS. And who knows--if we could figure out a cure, here in the US, we would have a new precious export.”

    Also keep on praying that we exercise the common sense of Grandmothers. And vote in November.

    Some call us tea baggers; but, not too long ago we were known as the Silent Majority. There are a lot of Grandmothers out here in America saying: “Enough is enough” !

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  3. As it happens, ED is a precursor of microvascular forms of dementia and ischemic stroke. The wrong body part is being treated to prevent severe cognitive impairment later on in life.

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  4. I happen to think that AD could be lessened by a healthy lifestyle and exercise during one's lifetime.My Dad came down with this hideous disease however he died a long time ago. It was so sorrowful for our family because he was a judge and a high profile lawyer transcending into someone who was virtually blank. From the beginning of this informative and factually verifiable site we have come to realize that searching for the cure and and R&D will be crippled if we are not able to revise the Health Care Bill as decided. The life span of American citizens is in my opinion limited at this point.

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  5. I would not like to see ED trivialized. Sexual function is an important lynch pin for relationships, families, mental health and general well being. We are beginning to see the stress of our problematic economy and work pressures bringing in ED patients in their 30's. It is funny but in the 1960's this was never an issue exploded all over society and in the media.Luckily the medical profession is not spending too much time with this sensitive ailment because actually it is very difficult to pinpoint, especially in adults over 45. It is not a given that ED relates to a cardiac causative agent such as hardening of the arteries. Sometimes in older men it happens because they are old or bored or a combination of the two. The fact that if a man is cleared to take advantage of any of the impotency drugs, it is most certain that no matter what caused his difficulty, he is scheduled for rewarding evenings. As far as Obama care relates, we would all be in deeper financial distress if ED was a costly diagnosis and treatment.

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  6. "I happen to think that AD could be lessened by a healthy lifestyle and exercise during one's lifetime"

    Jay, I hope you're right, but the experience in my family counters this. My father was a peon of health - Football player and boxer in college; he continued as a coach and referee. He avidly participated (mentally and physically) in sports and competition, as well as coaching - shooting, sprints, etc. Yet, this disease took him early. His brother and sister, once both vitally healthy and active, also are now in the 3rd stage.

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  7. Jim, as usual, you are right on the money. We must make AD research a top priority for this nation, and wage a war on it! Keep up the great work.

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  8. I must apologize to the above gentleman, I tend to relate incorrectly maladies and illnesses to a lack of healthy lifestyle. As I said, my Dad had AD but did not exercise and ate the wrong foods. I have practiced a regimented healthy lifestyle for more than 20 years and as a former semi-professional swimmer I still swim more than 40 laps per day.I have never been sick a day in my life, no hospital cuts, nothing. I am pushing sixty and a father at 36 and again at 43. I apologize for the error.

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  9. The antiseptic, vulnerary, and wound healing abilities of pine are used by all indigenous people, TenderWet

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  10. It was so sorrowful for our family because he was a judge and a high profile lawyer transcending health

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  11. The scientists will certainly figure out a cure for AD, focusing on it as they have done with polio and AIDS. Hope that it will happen soon. Our paper writing service is ready to help you with this.

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