Even if treatments work to stabilize the disease and modestly improve symptoms, these approaches seem likely to increase -- rather than decrease -- the medical costs of the disease to government and insurance providers, Cole said.
"Drug companies will invest far more than government in finding new treatments. If the past is any guide, they will provide better tools for disease management but with increased costs," he said.
A plan that addresses the medical costs of dementia in an aging population has to center on prevention, Cole said. "There should be far more government resources aimed at a serious efforts at finding and implementing low-cost prevention methods," he said.
Currently, an estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's or a similar dementia. Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading killer in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For more on Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association.
SOURCES: William Thies, Ph.D., vice president, medical and scientific affairs, Alzheimer's Association, Chicago; Sam Gandy, M.D., Ph.D., Mount Sinai Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City; Greg M. Cole, Ph.D., neuroscientist, Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System, and associate director, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of California, Los Angeles
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