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EAA member Corien Wortmann-Kool presents the fiscal challenges of dementia

Tuesday 05 March 2013

On 5 March, Corien Wortmann-Kool, MEP (Netherlands) and member of the European Alzheimer's Alliance (EAA), was a keynote speaker during the launch event of the "CEO Initiative" in the European Parliament. Her speech focused on Alzheimer’s disease as a future fiscal and economic challenge that should already be addressed today.

She pointed out that many national governments are currently working to solve their financial crises and to avoid them in the future. This is mainly done by looking for macro-economic imbalances and other issues that may provoke future crises. Ms Wortmann-Kool explained that the rapid aging of the population is such an issue - particularly as there is a close correlation between advancing age and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

If it is left unchecked, the current situation will become a fiscal nightmare in the 21st century, overshadowing the other health and social challenges we face. In 2010, the worldwide costs of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, were estimated to exceed one per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), at more than $600 billion (EUR 477 billion).

In the EU 27 region, this cost was estimated at EUR 160 billion or EUR 22,000/patient/year for 2008. Informal care costs were estimated at nearly EUR 90 billion (56% of the total cost), resulting mainly from productivity loss, adverse impacts on physical and mental health of carers and out-of-pocket expenses.

Ms Wortmann-Kool predicted that investing in Alzheimer’s disease today will have huge payoffs in the decades ahead. The structure of such an investment will be complex, as it must be based on a global, cross-sector and cross-discipline solution. It will also involve a wide range of government sectors, including health, finance, social welfare, family and employment. However, it will alleviate the burden of dementia, as the syndrome prevents millions of people from participating in the workforce and contributing to economic growth.

The Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s Disease is an advocacy effort led by George Vradenburg of "USAgainstAlzheimer’s". The CEO Initiative is a coalition of pharmaceutical companies – including AC Immune, Pfizer and Sanofi – and other companies who realise the impact of Alzheimer’s on our society – such as Bank of America, General Electric and Nestle.

During this meeting, delegates confirmed the following recommendations:

  • Alzheimer’s disease must be recognised as a priority, notably in the area of Research and Innovation.
  • Alzheimer’s disease needs more investment that is better targeted and better coordinated. At the least, this should be done at EU level but preferably at a global level.
  • There is an urgent need for comprehensive plans to address the impact of Alzheimer’s disease, both at national and European level.
  • Health and social care services must be adapted to take better account of the specific needs of Alzheimer’s patients.

The launch event was chaired by Avril Doyle, former Irish MEP. In addition to Corien, other EAA members attended the meeting: Heinz Becker (Austria), Cristian Busoi (Romania) and Martina Anderson (UK - Northern Ireland), who has just joined the Alliance. The CEOs of Lilly and AC Immune also participated in the successful launch event, as did representatives of the media and various European institutions. Jean Georges represented Alzheimer Europe at the meeting and provided an overview of the organisation’s campaign to make dementia a European priority.