Alzheimer's disease is the only one of the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed down once it begins. People live with the progressively debilitating dementia an average of about 10 years.
More than 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 each day, starting this year, according to the Generation Alzheimer's report of the Alzheimer's Association.
After 65, the risk of being struck by the disease doubles every five years, so almost half of people suffer from this disease by 85.
Alzheimer's has already claimed countless lives, including that of President Ronald Reagan. What this single disease will do in the next few decades boggles the mind with almost 10 million baby boomers expected to die with or from AD. This is one of the biggest predictable humanitarian catastrophes in the history of America.
The biggest aging group in history -- the baby boomers -- who have transformed our world in so many amazing ways, are about to "shoot themselves in the head" by being the principal supporters of the indiscriminate budget cutting mentality that pervades Washington today.
The boomers started to walk off the Alzheimer's disease cliff this year, a fact that will not only affect them and their families but destroy the fabric of health care and society for their children and grandchildren because the demented boomers themselves will be an unprecedented burden to health care and society.
There is much debate among researchers about the amyloid hypothesis. To clarify, the amyloid hypothesis states that Alzheimer's disease is caused by the buildup of a protein known as amyloid beta in the brain, hence the name.
But I think the story is much bigger than the controversy about the amyloid hypothesis. The actual story is: "The effort to balance the budget so that our children and grandchildren will have a brighter future will do the exact opposite."
Only effective treatment -- or prevention -- can reduce health care costs by preventing millions of boomers from living an average of 10 years with dementia and tripling costs from up to $200 billion to as much as $600 billion a year.
Why is this catastrophe so predictable? Because the National Institutes of Health's research budget has already declined and will likely continue to decline. Thus, as things stand now, this scenario is 100 percent predictable because, as some know, the pharmaceutical industry is divesting itself from this effort.
Here is how I see the disaster unfolding as we continue to struggle with the controversy about the amyloid hypothesis:
The principal treatment target of the past 20 years (amyloid) has been hit (meaning that some of the treatment actually succeeded in removing the amyloid from the brain of Alzheimer's patients).
The removal of amyloid has not changed the disease course.
There is not enough funding to expand the treatment and prevention efforts to include other targets and, after severe financial losses, the pharmaceutical industry is beginning to abandon the effort.
There are many promising treatment and prevention strategies that will not be investigated quickly enough to make any difference to the mass of boomers who have begun to succumb to Alzheimer's this year.