While conference attendees discussed business, bailouts, and bogus bonuses, there was a quieter panel at the Milken conference soberly addressing a looming crisis.
“Alzheimer’s plagues 36 million people around the world. If we don’t find a cure soon, that number will double every 10-20 years. Why should corporations care?” asked Jeff Morby, former Vice Chairman of Mellon Bank, who now currently serves on the board of the World Wildlife Fund and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. “Because private enterprise can move more quickly, and if corporations act now, if they take action within this very small window of opportunity, we can prevent a devastating national financial crisis.”
Alzheimer’s doesn’t just affect our aging population. The United States will spend $2 trillion over the next decade on Alzheimer’s care alone, more than wiping out Medicare and Medicaid programs. “We need to prepare for this tsunami by making Alzheimer’s a national priority,” added Morby.
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease, for both the afflicted, and their families. Currently, 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. The average annual cost for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s was $24,000 in 2005, $37,218 today and by 2030 it’s predicted to be $102,669. Corporations and small businesses feel the pinch. When an employee must take time off to meet the needs of a parent with Alzheimer’s, absenteeism increases, productivity decreases and of course, with the costs of Medicare and Medicaid rising dramatically each year, corporations pay for it in rising healthcare costs. The cost of Medicare and Medicaid is $185B annually, of which 20% is Alzheimer’s related and Alzheimer’s related costs are growing 11% per year.
“We need a national strategy for a cure,” said Harry Johns, President and CEO, Alzheimer’s Association. “One fundamental piece of this puzzle is a commitment from our nation’s corporations.”
Some good news – private funding is getting results. The Alzheimer’s Genome Project has already identified over 100 novel candidate genes, and discovered a paradigm shifting insight: Abeta, once considered a waste by-product of the brain, is showing signs of a critical role in the brain’s innate immune system. “This is the kind of creative research that often does not get federal funding,” says Tim Armour, President and CEO of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. “We are thrilled that this high-risk investment has paid off in truly breakthrough findings that open up new pathways to prevention of this terrible disease.”
Whether we recognize it or not, each one of us feels the economic impact of this epidemic every day. Through the rising costs of health care, largely driven by the rise in Alzheimer’s patients, we are all directly impacted by this disease.
To learn more about the latest research for a cure, and how you can effectively and significantly make a difference, please visit www.curealzfund.org .