More needed on Alzheimer’s

To the Editor:

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Corenna L. O’Brien, the district director of Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s office, to discuss the cost and impact of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

The human and financial toll of Alzheimer’s is great and affects not only the lives of the individuals but the people around them. For me, I had to stop teaching two years ago at 56 (before retirement age) to care for my wife full-time who was officially diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s five years ago and after being brushed off and told she “was too young to have Alzheimer’s” by her primary care provider the previous year.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression. Alzheimer’s-related costs soared to $259 billion in 2017, $175 billion of which come in direct costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Our health insurance company, in response to the soaring cost this year, adjusted the price of one of my wife’s medications for a 90 day supply of generic Donepezil HCL 10mg from $30 to $303.93.

Alzheimer’s research is now pointing in the direction that treatment needs to start long before symptoms begin, possibly 10 or 20 years. (Think about pre-existing conditions not being covered by insurance if you have a gap in coverage.) It was only through research and funding that has allowed new and more effective treatments for diseases like heart disease, cancer and HIV/AIDS. The average long-term cost of treating someone with Alzheimer’s is much greater.

The cost alone of treating and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is on track to bankrupting Medicare/Medicaid, not to mention private third-party insurance companies. More information can be found online.

That is why I am urging Sen. Angus King, Sen. Susan Collins, Poliquin and Rep. Shellie Pingree to support a $414 million increase for federal Alzheimer’s research funding for fiscal year 2018.

It may be too late for people like my wife. However, it is an opportunity for Maine’s congressional delegation to demonstrate a bipartisan effort to support for the next generation and possibly help save our health care system in whatever form it evolves into.

Thomas J. Frisk Sr.



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