Alzheimer's: Are We Ready for the Coming Epidemic?
Senior Editor, CNBC
To help stem or at least slow the tide of AD,the U.S. government has vowed to spend more money. President Obama has asked Congress for $80 million dollars — in addition to the $450 million the National Institutes of Health already spends — on AD research in 2013. The NIH will immediately devote an extra $50 million this year.
But that's not enough, even in an era of cutbacks, said Dr. Maria Carrillo.
"Government funding levels for other diseases, like cancer and heart disease are much higher. What's being spent on AD far too low," Carrillo said.
Another low point is a lack of foresight from his own colleagues, said Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute.
"The medical community is not ready for the increase in dementia patients as reflected in the fact that too many psychiatrists, neurologists and geriatricians are under-trained in this area," Sabbagh said.
If the more traditional methods aren't up to speed, alternative medicine advocates say their ideas should be put to the test.
"The old masters from China were concerned about how to lead a healthy lifestyle and its good effect on aging," said Joseph Douat, a faculty member at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. "Good food, no excessive drinking and good mental perspectives help. These are keys to postponing physical and mental deterioration."
Alzheimer's or dementia has been around for centuries but the disease got its name when it was first described in 1906 by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer. Symptoms include, mood swings, memory loss, confusion, irritability. On average, the life expectancy for a diagnosed patient is seven years.
In spite of the dire outlook, there are fleeting glimmers of hope.
Recent data on Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson's drug, bapineuzumab, suggest the previously failed medication might work at an earlier stage of Alzheimer's. Reversing earlier setbacks, Eli Lilly said at the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study this Monday that its solanezumab drug has shown it slows the progression of Alzheimer's in people with mild cases.
AndRoche recently doubled the size of its clinical trialon the experimental drug gantenerumab—claiming the it will put the Swiss drugmaker at the "forefront of the race to develop an Alzheimer's drug."
Finding a remedy, however, won't happen soon.
"I'm hopeful there will be a cure. I'm 59 years old and I want one." said Dr. Marc Gordon. "But it won't be today or tomorrow or next week. There's a lot to be done."
For Daiwattie Ganase, any cure will come to late for her father.
"We think the medical community is doing all it can. We're just not hopeful anything will be found in the near future," said Ganase.