August 16, 2006
Cost Of Stroke Victims Argues For Faster Research

Stroke costs of an aging population will be enormous in the next 45 years.

St. Paul, MN -- With projected costs of ischemic stroke in the United States expected to top $2.2 trillion dollars by 2050, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is urging Congress to further increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This estimate is probably a big overestimate because of the advances in biomedical technology that will occur between now and 2050. Stem cells therapies will start doing artery repairs certainly by 2025 and probably sooner. Also, drugs will come on the market that raise cardiovascular health improving HDL cholesterol and will work synergistically with drugs that lower the harmful types of cholesterol. Also, drugs that target different ways to lower general cholesterol will come on the market as well. Plus, gene therapies and drugs that improve vein and artery health by rejuvenating stem cells and other vascular cells will also make it onto the market by the 2020s.

Having said all that, this report in Neurology still serves the useful purpose of pointing out just how expensive each of the major diseases are in a single affluent country. The international costs are of course much higher. The size of these costs argue for greater efforts to develop treatments that will prevent stroke as well as other diseases. Each disease case avoided amounts to a large economic cost avoided as well as an increase in life expectancy and health.

A study published August 16, 2006 in the online edition of Neurology, the scientific journal of the AAN, found the total cost of stroke from 2005-2050, in 2005 dollars, is projected to be $1.52 trillion for non-Hispanic whites, $379 billion for African Americans and $313 billion for Hispanics.

"With the cost of stroke reaching $2.2 trillion, it is essential the NIH have the resources to halt this impending epidemic," said Catherine M. Rydell, CEO and Executive Director of the AAN. "The NIH has the ability to perform the research that can save countless lives and billions of dollars in health care costs if Congress would adequately fund its mission. The AAN will continue to work with our partners at the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, and others to stress to Congress the importance of funding NIH."

The AAN is strongly supporting a budget increase of five percent, or $1.4 billion, to bring overall funding for the NIH FY-07 budget appropriation to $30 billion.

The researchers claim that rising rates of obesity and diabetes might cause an increase in the rate of stroke. This argument is plausible in the short to medium term.

"Doing the right thing now ultimately could be cost-saving in the future, but we have a long way to go before all Americans receive adequate stroke prevention and emergency stroke care," she says. "If our society is not going to do it for the right reasons, perhaps we can do it because it's going to be obscenely expensive."

Brown and her colleagues say their $2.2 trillion estimate is extremely conservative, because it is based on current rates of the conditions that put people at higher risk of stroke -- such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Such conditions are projected to become even more common in the future.

The $2.2 trillion estimate includes the cost of everything from ambulances and hospital stays to medications, nursing home care, at-home care and doctor's visits. They also include lost earnings for stroke survivors under age 65, based on current median salaries for each ethnic group. Earnings of those over 65 weren't included.

The aging of Western populations will force raises in retirement ages. Earnings losses from stroke therefore are probably underestimated by their assumption of only counting people under 65 as workers.

What can Americans do to decrease this looming bill? No matter what their age or ethnicity, individuals can cut their own risk of a future stroke by quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthily, exercising, and keeping their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and any heart-rhythm problems under control, says Brown.

Meanwhile, doctors and hospitals can do a better job of providing preventive care and screening to patients with high blood pressure, clogged arteries and heart-rhythm problems. And, they can improve their use of a post-stroke drug called tPA.

We should strive to eat healthy diets. But we should also press for acceleration of the development of stem cell therapies, gene therapies, microfluidics, and other avenues of research that will lead to enormously more powerful therapies. We need rejuvenation therapies based on Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). SENS therapies will make stroke and heart attacks extremely rare.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 August 16 10:34 PM  Policy Medical

remo williams said at August 16, 2006 10:48 PM:

I don't think an article like this, predicting out to 2050, is helpful. It is an extremely short sighted extrapolation that ignores not many likely cures out to 2050 but ignores what is being developed in labs today. You mentioned stem cell therepies by 2025, but even that is a quite conservative estimate considering researchers often mention 2015 as a rough estimate when to start expecting several treatments. Anti-obesity pills are improving every few years, an anti-obesity vaccine is set for testing (as is one for Alzheimer's)

When the AAN puts out a report like this, they are either being dishonest or are extremely ignorant of developments within their field.

Jeffrey Gordon said at August 17, 2006 1:29 PM:

Given the current rate of change (which will itself get faster), anyone who thinks they can accurately predict out to 2050 is smoking some strong stuff.

Dave said at August 18, 2006 4:30 PM:

OT: hey what you make of this, "Irish firm Steorn has placed an advertisement in The Economist magazine asking for 12 scientists to test their "free energy" invention"

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