Today, more than 35 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s disease, a number expected to triple to 115 million people by 2050. Even beyond those diagnosed with the illness, Alzheimer’s takes an enormous toll on their families, loved ones, and caregivers. As the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s continues to grow, we must push harder to address the emotional, social, and economic impact of Alzheimer’s disease throughout society.
Many organizations and governments have already recognized that Alzheimer’s represents one of the greatest public health challenges of this generation. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the annual societal costs of dementia worldwide reached $604 billion in 2010 alone. If dementia care were a country, it would have the 18th largest economy in the world. If it were a company, its annual revenue would surpass Walmart. Ending Alzheimer’s worldwide and suspending the growth of the enormous cost ultimately comes down to one thing: innovation.
Innovation, both in medicine and in the policy arena, can provide the tools we need to fight Alzheimer’s worldwide. Governments around the world have taken on the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease by instituting new policies that support current patients and work to prevent those of the future. Here in the United States, Congress unanimously passed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). In 2011, President Barack Obama signed the bill, creating a strategic, national coordination plan to address the rapidly escalating Alzheimer’s disease crisis. NAPA represents an important first step toward creating our best chance at finding a cure to Alzheimer’s in our lifetime, but more can be done.
For the 35 million people living with Alzheimer’s today, and their loved ones and caregivers, the fight against Alzheimer’s represents a fight for their life. We must fight harder. At Lilly, we pride ourselves on bringing innovation to the patients who need it most. We urge others in the fight against Alzheimer’s, from policymakers to advocates, to embrace this spirit of innovation to improve our chances of ending Alzheimer’s once and for all.