According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are about 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. They project that by 2050, the number will reach 50 million. Here in America, someone develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds.
Perhaps the scariest statistic is that 1 in 3 seniors will die ‘with’ Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is listed as the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, more Americans will die from Alzheimer’s than from breast and prostate cancer combined.
There is a huge financial cost to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This year, it is estimated that it will cost the nation around $290 billion and with the projected increased rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s in 2050 that the cost could possibly reach as high as $1.1 trillion.
That’s not including the 16 million Americans that provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That amounts to about 18.5 million hours of unpaid care, that actually has a value of around $234 billion.
There is no doubt that Alzheimer’s comes at a terrible cost, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and time wise.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve reported on a number of new research studies into ways of identifying the cause of Alzheimer’s to detecting it earlier, to ways to treat the fatal disease, to help provide a person with more productive years before it takes its deadly toll.
But, how much would it be worth if someone developed a vaccine that prevented Alzheimer’s in the first place? Imagine reducing the projected 14 million cases by 2050 to near zero. Not only would such a vaccine save millions of lives, but it would save trillions of dollars and millions of hours of care.
If you think this is fantasy, consider this recent report:
“Researchers at the University of New Mexico are testing a vaccine that they say could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to CBS Albuquerque affiliate KRQE.”
“The vaccine aims to target a protein known as tau that is commonly found in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s. Tau can tangle up and accumulate in the brain in abnormal ways, having a detrimental effect on parts of the brain involving memory.”
“Kiran Bhaskar, an associate professor in the university’s health and sciences department, said his research began with an idea in 2013. Bhaskar and his team then began testing the vaccine on mice by giving a series of injections to a group of mice with the disease.”
So far, the vaccine has only been tested on mice and not on humans, Bhaskar cautions early optimism because he is not sure if the drug will work the same way in humans as it does in mice. One of the problems facing further testing is the cost, which Bhaskar says runs around $2 million, forcing him to seek donations and partnerships which would allow the further tests to continue.
Millions should be hoping and praying that funding is obtained and that further tests prove successful. If so, the researchers will not only save millions of lives and billions of dollars, but they will more than re-coup their investment. A vaccine to prevent Alzheimer’s will be as big or bigger as the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk in 1955.