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About 5 mln Americans have Alzheimer's

About five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, 10% more than five years ago, and the number will continue to rise, according to a new report.

Between 200,000 and 500,000 have an early onset form of the illness and other dementias, the Alzheimer Association said today. About 4.9 million people older than 65 have the disease, which destroys memory and the ability to communicate and do daily activities. The number of people affected by the disease will grow to 7.7 million by 2030 as baby boomers age, the Chicago-based group said.

The increased numbers will strain health-care budgets and families who provide care for the majority of patients. „The absence of effective disease modifying drugs, coupled with an aging population, makes Alzheimer's the health-care crisis of the 21st century,” Harry Johns, president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer's Association said in the statement. Medicare, the US government's health program for elderly, spends nearly three times as much for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias than for the average beneficiary.

In 2005, state and federal Medicaid spending for nursing home and home care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias was estimated at $21 billion (€15.8 billion); that number is projected to increase to $27 billion (€20.3 billion)by 2015. There are no cures for the disease, although several drugs on the market can slow its progression. These include Pfizer Inc. and Eisai Pharmaceutical's Aricept, Johnson & Johnson's Razadyne, Novartis AG's Exelon and Forest Laboratories Inc.'s Namenda.

In Alzheimer's, increasing numbers of nerve cells deteriorate and die, and information transfer in the brain begins to fail. Scientists don't know what causes the brain damage associated with Alzheimer's. In the advanced stage of the disease, people need help bathing, dressing, using the bathroom and eating. In the final stages, they can't communicate or recognize friends and family. Alzheimer's disease is ultimately fatal. (Bloomberg)