Study Shows Potential Economic Impact of Addressing Risk Factors for Alzheimer's Disease
BOSTON (April 16) ─ Managing risk factors linked with preventing Alzheimer's disease could substantially reduce its health care costs, suggests a new study from Tufts Medical Center.
The researchers found that addressing modifiable risk factors, such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and body mass index (BMI), could lessen the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease, delay its onset, and shorten the duration.
The findings, published in the April issue of the journal Health Affairs, also showed that managing these four risk factors could increase the amount of time that older adults lived without Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and greatly reduce costs.
For example, a 10 percent drop in the prevalence rates of cardiovascular diseases could save an estimated $20 billion for Medicare and $17 billion for Medicaid in Alzheimer's-related expenses, the study projected. Similar reductions in hypertension could save approximately $12 billion each for Medicare and Medicaid; in diabetes, $7 billion for Medicare and $1 billion for Medicaid; and a 10 percent reduction in BMI among overweight or obese older adults, $6 billion for Medicare and $35 billion for Medicaid.
"No previous studies have looked at the ‘unintended benefits’ of addressing these modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease," said lead author Pei-Jung Lin, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor at Tufts Medical Center.
"We tried to quantify the potential health gains and saving opportunities by using a simulation model," she said.
To explore these effects, the researchers examined data from a group of 65-year-old Medicare patients with Alzheimer's disease. They developed a simulation model to predict the impact of a 10 percent drop in the prevalence rates of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, and BMI among overweight or obese older adults.
In 2014, Alzheimer's disease will cost the United States an estimated $214 billion, including $150 billion in costs to Medicare ($113 billion) and Medicaid ($37 billion), according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Knowing the health consequences and economic impact of addressing modifiable Alzheimer's risk factors is important given the lack of effective treatment for the disease, the high cost of new drug therapies, and the pressure to curb health spending.
“While more studies are needed, our research shows that effective management of certain chronic conditions, even when initiated after the age of 65, may significantly prevent or delay the onset, and reduce the overall costs, of Alzheimer's disease," said study co-author Howard Fillit, M.D., Executive Director and Chief Science Officer at the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.
The research was done at the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at Tufts Medical Center and at Emory University. It was funded by the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation and the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
Lin PJ, Yang Z, Fillit HM, Cohen JT, Neumann PJ. Unintended benefits: the potential economic impact of addressing risk factors to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Health Affairs 2014; 33(4):547-554.
About Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children
Tufts Medical Center is an exceptional, not-for-profit, 415-bed academic medical center that is home to both a full-service hospital for adults and Floating Hospital for Children. Conveniently located in downtown Boston, the Medical Center is the principal teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine. Floating Hospital for Children is the full-service children's hospital of Tufts Medical Center and the principal pediatric teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts Medical Center is affiliated with the New England Quality Care Alliance, a network of more than 1,800 physicians throughout Eastern Massachusetts. For more information, please visit www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org.