2022 Q1 Rx Newletter: Alzheimer’s in America

2022 Q1 Rx Newletter: Alzheimer’s in America

According to the CDC, in 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease.

With the near constant advances in medicine most diseases are seeing gradually decreasing death rates. Prime examples are conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. However, this is not the case with Alzheimer’s.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

The CDC states Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, and a “progressive disease, beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment”.

While the disease itself is not lethal in the same way a heart attack can be, the side effects are what typically drive Alzheimer’s-related fatalities. Worryingly, the amount of people with Alzheimer’s is increasing at a steady pace.

  • The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years beyond age 65.

As the disease’s symptoms start to notably impact the afflicted person’s daily life, the need for a part-time or full-time caregiver becomes apparent.

  • In 2018, 1 in 5 adults were reported as being caregivers in a non-career capacity.

Treatments, cures, and costs

As of 2020, the costs of treating Alzheimer’s in the United States is estimated to fall between $215 billion and $379 billion. While the age of the afflicted is predominantly over 65 years or older, the costs of treatment is not isolated to Medicare and Medicaid alone.

As older Americans remain in the workforce, the necessary treatment and their costs becomes more of a focus for employers.

  • While there are various drugs to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, only one has been approved to treat the underlying biology of the disease.
  • Aduhelm, which received accelerated approval from the FDA in June of 2016 originally announced a price point of $56K.
    • After public backlash, Biogen reduced the price to $28K.

As the U.S. pharmaceutical giants continue to roll out new drugs with wider clinical reach, employers will continue to receive pressure to cover these drugs regardless of their cost, and in some cases, their efficacy. While the future of medicine is bright, the bill is equally high.