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Research projects major increase in Alzheimer's care costs

New research shows that unless more effective treatments are developed for Alzheimer's disease and other causes of cognitive impairment, there will be a substantial rise in the demand for long-term care services. The research also concludes that if treatments developed were to reduce the percentage of older people with severe cognitive impairment by only 1% per year, this would broadly offset the increasing long-term care costs due to rising numbers of older people.

The results, from a new report† by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), will be launched by LSE's Professor Martin Knapp at the conference "A Biological and Socio-Economic Assessment of the Consequences of an Ageing Population" to be held at the British Academy in London on Thursday 23rd January 2003.

The independent report, commissioned by the Alzheimer's Research Trust, is the first to look at the impact that cognitive impairment* could have on future long-term care costs in England under a wide range of scenarios.

Researchers at LSE compared figures for 1998 with their projected figures for the year 2031, under a range of assumptions about future mortality and prevalence rates and future patterns of care. The study shows that the number of people with cognitive impairment in England is likely to rise by 66% from 461,000 to 765,000 between 1998 and 2031, faster than the number of people with physical disability only. The report implies that demand for long-term care will rise at a faster rate among those with cognitive impairment than projections based on the overall demand for long-term care would suggest.

The cost of long-term care services
The report also projects that the costs to provide long-term care to older people with cognitive impairment will more than double in real terms, from around £4.6 billion to nearly £11 billion in 2031, to keep pace with demographic pressures. This represents an increase from 0.6% to 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product. Long-term care expenditure on older people with cognitive impairment is projected to rise faster than long-term care expenditure on older people as a whole.

Social and policy implications
The research suggests that unless more effective treatments for cognitive impairment are developed and made widely available, the numbers of older people with cognitive impairment will rise significantly over the next 30 years. However, if current or future treatments were to reduce the percentage of older people with the more severe stages of cognitive impairment by 1% per year, this would broadly offset the effect of rising numbers of older people.

Professor Martin Knapp, Professor of Social Policy at LSE said "These results highlight the importance of research to develop effective therapeutic strategies for the later stages of dementia. Treatments that delay the progression of dementia could delay the need for institutional care and enable older people to receive informal and formal care at home for longer. At the same time, we must stress that support for informal carers in these circumstances would be essential."

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust commented: "These figures show the urgent need to find an effective and permanent treatment for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Research in the UK is severely under-funded, yet offers a real hope for finding an answer to dementia. This report also highlights the importance of developing appropriate formal services for those with cognitive impairment which is rising faster than overall figures for long-term care requirements might have indicated previously."

Summary of results 1998 2031 change
Number of people in England with cognitive impairment (CI) 461,000 765,000 +66%
Cost of long-term care services for older people with CI £4.6 billion £10.9 billion +131%
Long-term care cost for CI as percentage of GDP 0.61% 0.70% +15%
Hours of home care for older people arranged by local authorities 237,000 395,000 +67%
Number of people with cognitive impairment in institutions 224,000 365,000 +63%

For more information or for further copies of the full report, please contact Harriet Millward, PR Executive, Alzheimer's Research Trust, phone 01223 843899, hmillward@alzheimers-research.org.uk|

Notes for Editors

  • *Cognitive impairment describes problems in thinking, learning and remembering. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of cognitive impairment, representing 72% of the total number of older people affected.
  • † Report entitled "Cognitive impairment in older people: its implications for future demand for services and costs". Adelina Comas-Herrera, Raphael Wittenberg, Linda Pickard, Martin Knapp and MRC-CFAS. PSSRU Discussion Paper 1728. Figures in the report are based on a set of core assumptions. The Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at LSE is based within the Department of Social Policy.
  • Report commissioned by the Alzheimer's Research Trust, the leading Alzheimer's research charity in the UK
  • Free information on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, including the drugs available for treatment, is available from the Alzheimer's Research Trust, tel 01223 843899, www.alzheimers-research.org.uk
  • There are three drugs licensed for use in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer's disease, sold under the names Aricept, Exelon, and Reminyl. The first drug for the moderately-severe to severe stages of Alzheimer's was launched in October 2002 and is sold under the name Ebixa®.
  • There are over half a million people with Alzheimer's in the UK today; the disease is fatal
  • Alzheimer's research is severely under-funded - only £11 is spent on UK research annually per Alzheimer's patient, compared with £289 for cancer