As most know by now I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (ALZ for short) in the spring of last year. After a recent trip back to Mayo’s I find there is a difference of opinion from various Neurologists as to exactly what I have, the diagnosis’s range from early ALZ to Vascular Dementia to Mild Cognitive Impairment. I have been told the discrepancy arises because I am bright enough (me, not really sure of that) to do very well on all the written and verbal tests, but the brain scans show something worse. I have also determined I am far from alone in this pickle of not being sure what I have. Many others are facing the same problem. For me this raises the issue of how important research is on determining all facets of the disease and how to deal with it. My son says we will only know after I die and an autopsy is performed; think I will try to wait a while for that.
What I do know is that ALZ is growing dramatically in the general population. Among Boomers (and at 74 I am just beyond that) ALZ is a huge and growing problem. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 5.3 million Americans currently have it and that in 2050, 32 yrs. out, when my granddaughter will be 53, there are projected to be 16 million afflicted with ALZ. In 2017 ALZ cost the country about 259 billion. By 2050 projections are the number will be 1.1 trillion.
With that tremendous growth in a major sector of the economy (older folks) one would think a lot of resources would be going toward research, but in the larger scheme of things, not so much. For instance the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends 6 billion on Cancer, 3 billion on Aids and 489 million on ALZ research.
Another troubling fact is that Pfizer Pharmaceutical, one of the countries largest Pharm Companies, recently announced it was ending research on ALZ. Along with that, it should be noted that nine out of ten big pharm companies spend more on advertising then on research. This is an interesting phenomena, given the fact that only two countries in the developed world are allowed by their respective governments to advertise and they are the US and New Zealand. Canada allows for just a bit but not much. Lobbying Congress is another frustrating matter. According to the Center For Responsive Politics Pfizer is spending a bit under 10 million per year the last few years. I believe that is in addition to the 18/19 million spent by their trade association, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufactures of America. With full disclosure, I need to say I lobbied for any number of groups in my past career running associations and it is the American way. On a few of these issues however, I guess I am not quite in agreement with big Pharm priorities.
My belief is with elections coming up later this year, a few changes may be in the offing. I don’t think the Ds are quite as friendly to big Pharm as the Rs are.