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Alzheimer’s Disease Subject of Senate Hearing

On March 25, the Senate Aging Committee held a hearing, “The Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease: Are We on Track to a Treatment by 2025?”

“Women are also at the epicenter of this crisis,” said Dan Gasby, husband of B. Smith, restaurateur, model, and author who recently was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He continued, “Almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease are women, an estimated 3.2 million women. Among those aged 71 and older, 16 percent of women have Alzheimer’s and other dementias compared with 11 percent of men. At age 65, women without Alzheimer’s have more than a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s in the remainder of their lives, compared with one in 11 chance for men. In fact, women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.”

Richard J. Hodes, MD, director, National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), explained the burden Alzheimer’s disease places on society: “This disease is not just a challenge to our health; it also has an impact on our economy. Recently, NIH-supported economists calculated that the costs in 2010 to the U.S. health care and long-term care systems for caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease were between $159 billion and $215 billion, depending on how caregiver costs were assessed. The researchers estimated direct costs of dementia care purchased in the market in 2010 at $109 billion. To place that figure in context, that same year, direct health costs for heart disease and cancer were estimated at $102 billion and $77 billion, respectively. Even if favorable trends in disease prevalence continue, costs are expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades – and this increase will be significantly magnified if unfavorable trends, such as the current epidemic of diabetes (associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s), continue on their present course.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Ronald C. Petersen, PhD, MD, professor of Neurology, director and chair, Cora Kanow Professor of Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services;
  • Kimberly Stemley, caregiver and chief financial officer, Rx Outreach; and
  • Heidi R. Weirman, MD, division director of Geriatrics and medical director, Maine Medical Center and Elder Care Services, MaineHealth
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