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Early Alzheimer's diagnosis offers large social, fiscal benefits
Date:5/12/2009

MADISON Early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease could save millions or even billions of dollars while simultaneously improving care, according to new work by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

Patients with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are heavy users of long-term care services, especially nursing home care, with estimated annual costs upward of tens of billions of dollars nationwide.

Much of the fiscal burden is borne by state and federal governments and thus taxpayers through the Medicaid and Medicare programs. For example, the Wisconsin Medicaid program spends almost half a billion dollars each year on nursing home care for just 11,000 dementia patients a tiny fraction of the estimated 160,000 affected people in the state, says Mark Sager, director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute of the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

These costs could be greatly reduced by earlier diagnosis and treatment, he says in a new study co-authored by La Follette School of Public Affairs professor David Weimer. The research, a cost-benefit analysis of the social and fiscal impacts of early identification and treatment of Alzheimer's disease, using Wisconsin as a model, appears in the May issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

"The future of this disease is to intervene decades before someone becomes symptomatic. This analysis says you can save literally billions of dollars in long-term care costs if you can intervene at an earlier stage," Sager says. "What you don't know costs a lot of money when it comes to this disease."

The issue is becoming more pressing as the population ages, with some estimates placing the incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. around 1 million cases by 2050, the authors say.

"We need to begin now to make the public-policy changes that will allow and encourage early recognition and intervention,
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Contact: Mark Sager
masager@wisc.edu
608-829-3300
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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