Alzheimer's disease (AD), the leading cause of disability in people older than 75 years of age, has direct and indirect medical costs estimated at $100 billion per year. Yet underdiagnosis, coding, and reimbursement barriers result in most patients with AD receiving inadequate care. The vast majority of managed care organizations (MCOs) still lack formal disease management programs for AD. In several documented studies, the total costs for managing patients with AD increased significantly over age- and comorbidity-matched controls without AD. Importantly, these extra costs include not only nursing home care but also medical claims for inpatient stays, emergency department visits, and outpatient care. The extra costs are especially high in those patients with comorbidities such as diabetes or heart failure. Emerging pharmacoeconomic data indicate potential savings in medical care costs associated with early treatment of AD and the potential cost effectiveness of cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil. These studies document that Medicare MCOs are in need of directed efforts to improve medical management for members with AD.
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