Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Alzheimer's Treatment Trends in UK Portend Higher Costs for US: A reminder, costly care is inevitable. The issue is whether we are wise enough to push for a cheaper cure.

Headline in the UK Telegraph: "Dementia sufferers 'abandoned', says Jeremy Hunt / Doctors are refusing to test for dementia because they think it is pointless while no 'cure' is available, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says."

Some will say that indeed, there's no point in knowing the full extent of Alzheimer's in the population of the US, too, because there's no cure.   And so why spend money on treatment that might be minimally effective, or even ineffective?   Many of these naysayers, of course, work at OMB, CBO, CMS, and the health public policy establishment.    And so while "abandonment" is not the word that these bean-counters would use, it's the policy that they quietly support. 

But others--including the vast majority of voters and the politicians who represent them--will say that we should do everything possible for AD sufferers. Not just because it's compassionate, but also because it's a political imperative, once the news of possible treatments gets out.   

And finally, more treatment is smart.  Smart, that is, because the more we identify and treat, the more likely we are to be able to turn whatever treatments we have into better treatments, and from there, into a cure.    Of course, the proper utilization of big data would help a lot, in terms of getting quality feedback on the results of each patient's treatment, and all tweaks and improvements along the way. 

In the meantime, if there's a wider-spread realization that AD treatments might be available, then surely most victims would want those treatments, both in the UK and in the US.  So in other words, if the data here for the UK are also true for the US, then there's going to be a further spike in AD costs, as seen in Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and also private insurance.  And that cost-spike will come, even if "deficit hawk" policy makers in DC made a deal to forbid it.


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