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Alzheimer's disease costs U.S. businesses at least $33.16 billion a year, and that figure is likely to grow dramatically, a new study indicates.
The majority of the business costs, $26.02 billion, are linked to employee caregiving of Alzheimer's sufferers, according to the study commissioned by the Chicago-based Alzheimer's Assn. Businesses pay an additional $7.14 billion for health care for Alzheimer's patients; for health insurance; and taxes to pay for research on Alzheimer's by Medicare, Medicaid and the National Institutes of Health.
According to the study, the caregiving costs include:
* Absenteeism due to workers acting as caregivers for Alzheimer's sufferers, which amounts to $7.89 billion.
* Productivity losses from caregivers, $13.22 billion.
* Replacement of workers who leave to be caregivers, $3.59 billion.
* Continuation of insurance for workers on leave, $719 million.
* Temporary agency fees to replace absent caregivers, $598.7 million.
* Additional usage of employee assistance programs by caregivers, $5.52 million.
The $33.16 billion figure is a low estimate, said Ross Koppel, a faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania's sociology department and head of the Social Research Corp. of Wyncote, Pa. He conducted the study.
"We didn't count (the costs of) secondary caregivers, lost career opportunity or elderly in the work force," he said, adding that 18% of men and 8% of women over age 65 still work.
The disease costs more than the combined revenue of Exxon Corp. and General Motors Corp., said Edward Truschke, president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer's Assn. Mr. Truschke also noted in a statement accompanying the study that Alz-heimer's could become "an epidemic of disastrous proportions as baby boomers reach the age of highest risk."
"We're asking Congress for $100 million to speed up research on the disease," said Mr. Truschke, who wants businesses to encourage Congress to increase funding for Alzheimer research.
The current federal investment in Alzheimer's research is $349.2 million.
Copies of the study are available at the Alzheimer's Assn. World Wide Web site at www.alz.org.