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"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" Los Angeles PremiereAlzheimer’s disease accounts for more U.S. health care spending than any other disease, and that share will skyrocket as the nation’s population ages, experts told members of a Senate health subcommittee on Feb. 26.

Research shows that 14.7 percent of Americans 71 and older had dementia in 2010 and that the condition, on average, was associated with $41,685 a year in medical and informal-care costs, said Michael D. Hurd, director of the RAND Center for the Study of Aging. Dementia — the vast majority of which is Alzheimer’s — costs the nation more than $109 billion a year, more than heart disease or cancer, he said. By 2040, as the nation ages, Hurd continued, the annual cost will be more than $379 billion.

Comedian and actor Seth Rogen spoke about Alzheimer’s from a personal perspective. His mother-in-law, he said, couldn’t speak or manage basic functions by the time she was 60 because of the disease. “The situation is so dire,” he said, “it caused me — a lazy, self-involved, generally self-medicated man-child — to start an entire charity organization.”

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Rogen founded Hilarity for Charity to support families and research. Rogen says on the organization’s website that that he aims “to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s among a younger generation.” The site adds, “For far too long, Alzheimer’s has been wrongly categorized as ‘an old person’s disease’ and it’s time for a change. With the rapid rate at which the disease is growing, it’s time to get the younger folks, who will be the older folks before too long, involved.”

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is critical to reining in health care costs. Of every $27 the nation spends through Medicare and Medicaid to treat Alzheimer’s patients, he noted, only $1 is spent on research. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by an average of five years, he said, could save the nation $447 billion by the year 2050.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, talked about advances in Alzheimer’s research but hastened to warn: “This kind of science is not a 100-yard dash; it’s a marathon.”

 

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