TUESDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- With the Alzheimer's epidemic predicted to reach crisis proportions as the U.S. population ages, a panel of experts is meeting for two days to draft a plan to combat a disease that is fast emerging as one of the nation's biggest -- and costliest -- health threats.
The goal of the plan is to improve diagnosis, buttress support and training programs for families with a loved one stricken with the mind-wasting disease, and develop better treatments -- and possibly even a cure -- by 2025.
"The idea behind the plan is to develop a coordinated effort to solve the Alzheimer's problem," said William Thies, vice president for medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer's Association.
"We recognize that the demographic imperative is going to happen with the peak of the epidemic in 2050," Thies said. By that date, it's estimated that 16 million Americans may be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, he added.
"We are struggling to manage the number we have now, which is a little over 5 million. So you can imagine with three times as many [patients], current systems simply can't manage that increase. It points to a very bleak future if we don't do something pretty quickly as the baby boom population starts developing more Alzheimer's disease," he said.
"Using current systems, this is simply unmanageable," Thies said.
Over the next two days, the advisory council of experts is meeting in Washington, D.C., to review a draft of a plan proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The draft was created in response to the National Alzheimer's Project Act, signed into law one year ago by President Barack Obama.
The plan will include everything from increased scientific research into causes and treatments for Alzheimer's, to how Medicare would reimburse doctors, and everything in between, Thies said.
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