Alzheimer's Disease Set to Explode

Prediction: 106 Million Alzheimer's Patients by 2050

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 11, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

June 11, 2007 -- Today, 26.6 million people worldwide suffer Alzheimer's disease. In just over 40 years, that number will quadruple to more than 106 million patients -- and 43% of them will need full-time care in nursing homes.

This grim prediction of the global burden of Alzheimer's disease comes from Johns Hopkins researcher Ron Brookmeyer, PhD, and colleagues. The researchers base their forecast on a complex computer model fed United Nations population projections and data on Alzheimer's disease.

"We face a looming global epidemic of Alzheimer's disease as the world's population ages," Brookmeyer says in a news release. "By 2050, one in 85 people worldwide will have Alzheimer's disease."

The only good news from the computer model is that if new ways are found to slow the disease, it would significantly reduce the global burden of Alzheimer's -- even if these new treatments had only modest effects.

Delaying Alzheimer's onset by just one year would reduce the 2050 case load by 12 million patients.

But not all breakthroughs are equal. If researchers succeed in slowing Alzheimer's progression as well as delaying onset, there would be only 9.2 million fewer cases by 2050 -- because people with the disease would survive longer.

"The worldwide costs will be huge," Brookmeyer and colleagues warn.

Currently, nearly half of the people with Alzheimer's disease live in Asia. That proportion is expected to grow to 59% by 2050, with nearly 64 million cases.

Brookmeyer's reported the grim numbers to the Second Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia, held June 9-12 in Washington. The findings also appear in the Alzheimer's Association journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.

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SOURCES: Brookmeyer, R. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 2007; manuscript received ahead of print. News release, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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