Alzheimer`s disease could cause a global cash crunch in coming generations -- as people begin to regularly live to 100 -- and must be considered a serious fiscal danger, experts have said.
Already 24-37 million people worldwide live with the incurable form of dementia, and that number is projected to reach 115 million by 2050, a panel of Alzheimer`s disease experts told the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
As women bear fewer children and the population ages, the world will become increasingly ill-prepared to cope with large numbers of dependent elderly people and must begin investing more in research to prevent the disease, they said.
Places like Russia, Europe, the United States and parts of Asia are experiencing "declining populations, fewer workers and more people dependent upon public health systems for their support," said George Vradenburg, founder of an advocacy group called USAgainstAlzheimer`s.
"That is producing fiscal stress on our health systems around the world and it is producing the risk that the developed world -- particularly the Asian rim and particularly western Europe -- are going to be declining in their economic growth and prosperity in the coming years."
According to the London-based Alzheimer`s Disease International, the total estimated worldwide cost of the disease in 2010 was 604 billion dollars, or nearly one percent of global GDP.
"If Alzheimer`s were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy based on GDP," said Daisy Acosta, the chair of ADI, describing Alzheimer`s as "the single most important health and social crisis of the 21st century."
"The impact of this disease today is massive and will accelerate with the years to come," she said.
"We invest six billion a year for cancer, four billion dollars a year for heart disease, two billion dollars a year for AIDS," said Bill Thies, chief scientific officer at the Alzheimer`s Association.