New Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease
The World’s #1 Healthcare Crisis
One of the big themes on this program is Alzheimer's disease. We talk about it often because it is the nation's and frankly, the world's number one healthcare crisis. Yeah, the focus has been on the pandemic, and deservedly so for the past several years. But bottom line is this: Alzheimer's has the biggest potential for economic havoc. Forget about the humanitarian element of this. We know how devastating that is.
I'm talking because this is a personal finance show about the economic impact of this. Alzheimer's is devastating to global economies for the simple reason that the longer we live, the more likely we're going to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. At age 60, the odds are one in 10 that you're going to get Alzheimer's. By age 80, it's one in three. By age 90, it's one in two. And as people are living longer than ever, the odds are increasingly likely that you or your spouse will develop the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It's the most expensive disease to treat because patients require 24/7 care and they live on average,12 years from onset of symptoms until death.
A Huge Price Tag for ALZ – and Growing
Add it all up and we are talking about an expensive disease. Already 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. And as the population is projected to grow rapidly over the next several decades with aging, we're going to have more people than ever in their 80s and 90s and 100s, which means more people than ever with Alzheimer's.
I am involved in a wide variety of organizations in the fight against Alzheimer's. Jean and I have been doing this for several decades. I'm now a member of the Davos Alzheimer's Collective, a group of hundreds of experts from around the world, mostly medical scientists, who are engaged very intently on this fight.
At a recent meeting, I learned something that I was not aware of. In the area of Alzheimer's, 90% of people with Down Syndrome develop Alzheimer's disease, usually in their early 50s, sometimes even in their 40s. See, historically, people with Down Syndrome used to die too young to develop Alzheimer's. But as we've improved the scenarios of medically speaking, the treatment and diagnostics and the support environment for people with Down Syndrome, they're more likely to live into their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, and they're more likely, therefore, to develop Alzheimer's. This is yet another burden for the families and caregivers of these folks, and it is the caregivers that we do have to pay attention to. 74% of caregivers are over the age of 75 and they are caring for someone over the age of 75.
At the moment, we haven't had much success over the past couple of decades in the development of new treatment or cures or vaccines. We are all familiar with Biogen's drug, which was very controversial when it was brought onto the market a year ago. Well, Biogen has now pulled that drug from the market and fired its CEO. This is after Medicare and the Veteran's Administration both said they would not pay for it, nor would most private insurers.
This leaves us without the only drug in 20 years that had been FDA-approved. And that's not the only controversial case that we've had. Cassava Sciences said it had a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease. And on the news, its stock jumped 1500 percent. But now medical journals are retracting their articles on the drug, saying that the company's studies were flawed, its methods opaque and its results improbable. Some scientists are even accusing the company of manipulating the test results. Nine experts said they don't trust the company's methods or the results, and the SEC is now investigating with allegations of stock fraud. So, by the way, is the NIH.
Meanwhile, investors still continue to fund Alzheimer's research. A biotech company called Alzheon has raised $50 million for clinical trials of an oral medication for Alzheimer's disease. There are 300 patients in the study this year. We'll know the results in two years and our fingers are crossed. So the fight continues. And I will keep you posted on the latest.