Headline in the UK Telegraph: "Dementia sufferers 'abandoned', says Jeremy Hunt / Doctors are refusing to test for dementia because they think it is pointless while no 'cure' is available, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says."
Some will say that indeed, there's no point in knowing the full extent of Alzheimer's in the population of the US, too, because there's no cure. And so why spend money on treatment that might be minimally effective, or even ineffective? Many of these naysayers, of course, work at OMB, CBO, CMS, and the health public policy establishment. And so while "abandonment" is not the word that these bean-counters would use, it's the policy that they quietly support.
But others--including the vast majority of voters and the politicians who represent them--will say that we should do everything possible for AD sufferers. Not just because it's compassionate, but also because it's a political imperative, once the news of possible treatments gets out.
And finally, more treatment is smart. Smart, that is, because the more we identify and treat, the more likely we are to be able to turn whatever treatments we have into better treatments, and from there, into a cure. Of course, the proper utilization of big data would help a lot, in terms of getting quality feedback on the results of each patient's treatment, and all tweaks and improvements along the way.
In the meantime, if there's a wider-spread realization that AD treatments might be available, then surely most victims would want those treatments, both in the UK and in the US. So in other words, if the data here for the UK are also true for the US, then there's going to be a further spike in AD costs, as seen in Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and also private insurance. And that cost-spike will come, even if "deficit hawk" policy makers in DC made a deal to forbid it.
Bob Patterson, a veteran of the Bush 43 administration and a well-known conservative thinker and activist, put forth a bold agenda in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Here's a key part of it, taking note of the pro-medical cure efforts of Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), and encouraging Republicans to join with Andrews:
Pivoting off another Pennsylvania first - the development of the polio vaccine by Jonas Salk in 1955 - Corbett should collaborate with U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), who has called for an Apollo-style program to fight disease. The goal: Establish the Philadelphia area as a medical-research enterprise zone dedicated to finding cures for debilitating conditions including cell disorders or cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autism, and all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's.
A focus on cures rather than care would multiply the kind of breakthroughs achieved at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia last month when researchers used the virus that causes AIDS to cure a 6-year-old of leukemia. The zone would also include programs for wounded soldiers, ensuring full rehabilitation of injured Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. Key to this project: All research in the designated zone would be trial-lawyer free and streamlined for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
The mechanics and specifics of financing these capital-intensive projects would have to be worked out. However, great countries - and visionary leaders - do not accept excuses for nixing promising initiatives that would reboot the economy, create good jobs, and expand the middle class. Great leaders find the resources and proceed.
Louis Woodhill, a Houston-based software entrepreneur/political activist/Forbes columnist, writes:
The right way (and, probably the only way) to reduce long-term Medicare costs is to find cures for the three major diseases of old age, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer. The electorate would find a “serious medicine strategy” much more appealing than futile Medicare cost control initiatives.