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Detect Alzheimer's early and save money!

Patients with Alzheimer's are heavy users of long-term care services. The research is a cost-benefit analysis of the social and fiscal impacts of early identification of Alzheimer's.

health and fitness Updated: May 13, 2009 20:58 IST

Early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease could save billions of dollars in costs while improving care, according to a new study.

The research by University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M) is a cost-benefit analysis of the social and fiscal impacts of early identification and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Patients with Alzheimer's and other dementias are heavy users of long-term care services, especially nursing home care, with estimated annual costs upward of tens of billions of dollars.

Much of the fiscal burden is borne by state and federal governments - and thus taxpayers - through the Medicaid and Medicare programs.

For example, Wisconsin Medicaid program spends almost half a billion dollars each year on nursing home care for just 11,000 dementia patients - a tiny fraction of the estimated 160,000 affected people in the state, says Mark Sager, director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute of the UW-M School of Medicine and Public Health.

These costs could be greatly reduced by earlier diagnosis and treatment, he said in a new study co-authored by La Follette School of Public Affairs professor David Weimer.

"The future of this disease is to intervene decades before someone becomes symptomatic. This analysis says you can save literally billions of dollars in long-term care costs if you can intervene at an earlier stage," Sager says.

The issue is becoming more pressing as the population ages, with some estimates placing the incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the US around a million cases by 2050, the authors say, according to an UW-M release.

The study appears in the May issue of Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

First Published: May 13, 2009 20:50 IST