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Alzheimer's Cases May Quadruple by 2050
Published: June 10, 2007
Filed at 6:49 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 26 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease, and a new forecast says the number will quadruple by 2050. At that rate, one in 85 people will have the brain-destroying disease in 40 years, researchers from Johns Hopkins University conclude.
The new estimates, being presented Sunday at an Alzheimer's Association conference in Washington, are not very different from previous projections of the looming global dementia epidemic with the graying of the world's population.
But they serve as a sobering reminder of the toll to come if scientists cannot find better ways to battle Alzheimer's and protect aging brains.
''If we can make even modest advances in preventing Alzheimer's disease, or delay its progression, we could have a huge global public health impact,'' said Johns Hopkins public health specialist Ron Brookmeyer, who led the new study.
The biggest jump is projected for densely populated Asia, home of almost half of today's Alzheimer's cases, 12.6 million. By 2050, Asia will have 62.8 million of the world's 106 million Alzheimer's patients, the study projects.
A recent U.S. study estimated that this nation's Alzheimer's toll will reach 16 million by 2050, compared with more than 5 million today. The new estimate is significantly lower, suggesting only 3.1 million North American cases today and 8.8 million by 2050.
Among the estimates for other regions are:
--Africa, 1.3 million today and 6.3 million in 2050.
--Europe, 7.2 million and 16.5 million.
--Latin America and the Caribbean, 2 million and 10.8 million.
--Oceania, 200,00 and 800,000.
The project was funded by Elan Pharmaceuticals and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
Newest Estimate of Worldwide Prevalence of Alzheimer's Disease = 26.6 Million
Washington D.C., June 10, 2007
The latest worldwide estimate of Alzheimer's disease prevalence shows that 26.6 million people were living with the disease in 2006, according to research reported today at the 2nd Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C.
The researchers predict that global prevalence of Alzheimer's will quadruple by 2050 to more than 100 million, at which time 1 in 85 persons worldwide will be living with the disease. More than 40 percent of those cases will be in late stage Alzheimer's requiring a high level of attention equivalent to nursing home care.
"The number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease is growing at an alarming rate, and the increasing financial and personal costs will have a devastating effect on the world's economies, healthcare systems and families," said William Thies, Ph.D., vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations with the Alzheimer's Association. "We must make the fight against Alzheimer's a national priority before it's too late. The absence of effective disease modifying drugs, coupled with an aging population, makes Alzheimer's the healthcare crisis of the 21st century."
"However there is hope. There are several drugs in Phase III clinical trials for Alzheimer's that show great promise to slow or stop the progression of the disease. This, combined with advancements in diagnostic tools, has the potential to change the landscape of Alzheimer's, but we need more funding for research to make this happen," Thies said.
About the study
Researchers led by Ron Brookmeyer, Ph.D., Professor of Biostatistics and Chair of the Master of Public Health Program at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, M.D., created a multi-state mathematical computer model using United Nations' worldwide population forecasts and data from epidemiological studies on the incidence and mortality of Alzheimer's. The goal was to forecast the global burden of Alzheimer's disease and evaluate the potential impact of interventions that delay disease onset or progression.
The researchers also used their model to investigate the impact of medical advances and preventive strategies on disease onset and disease progression. They found that:
· Delaying Alzheimer's disease onset by one year we would reduce the number of Alzheimer's cases in 2050 by 12 million.
· Delaying both Alzheimer's disease onset and disease progression by two years would reduce burden by more than 18 million cases, with most of that decrease - 16 million cases - among late stage cases that require the most intensive care.
"A global epidemic of Alzheimer's disease is coming," Brookmeyer said. "However, even modest advances in preventing Alzheimer's or delaying its progression can have a huge global public health impact."
Doubling time of Alzheimer's disease incidence
In a related study, Kathryn Ziegler-Graham, Ph.D., a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor in Statistics at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and colleagues examined Alzheimer's disease doubling time, which is the number of years it takes for the age-specific incidence rate to double.
In order to estimate doubling times and identify regional or gender relationships, the researchers reviewed all studies in the peer review literature that reported age specific incidence rates for Alzheimer's disease. They found an overall estimate of the doubling time was 5.5 years. The doubling times from studies performed in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world were not significantly different. No significant differences were detected by gender.
"Doubling times of Alzheimer's disease incidence rates are remarkably similar among populations throughout the world," Ziegler-Graham said.
In March, the Alzheimer's Association reported that there are now more than 5 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer's. This is a 10 percent increase from the previous nationwide prevalence estimate of 4.5 million. The new estimate was included in a report titled, 2007 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.
"The astronomical costs of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia have a tremendous impact on individuals living with the disease, their loved ones and society as a whole," said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association. "We must increase funding for research on treatment, prevention and early detection. And until we defeat this disease, we must provide better care for people with dementia and their families. The advancements we make in treatment and prevention now will save millions of dollars and lives in the near future."
About the Alzheimer's Association Prevention Conference
The Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia is the world's only multidisciplinary forum to convene professionals from the fields of bench research, drug discovery, medicine, care and public policy. More than 1,000 dementia experts from around the world will gather to present and discuss the latest detection, treatment and prevention research, and address how together we can prevent Alzheimer's from becoming a global health crisis. The 2007 Alzheimer's Association Prevention Conference will be held June 9-12 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.
About the Alzheimer's Association
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research, provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's. For more information, visit
· Ron Brookmeyer - Forecasting the global prevalence and burden of Alzheimer's disease. (Funders: Elan Pharmaceuticals, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals) · Kathryn Ziegler-Graham - Worldwide variation in the doubling time of Alzheimer's disease incidence rates. (Funders: Elan Pharmaceuticals, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals)
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