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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
14bn bill for Alzheimer's
Nursing home
The costs of looking after patients are huge
The cost of caring for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease outweighs the burden of heart disease and stroke, says a report.

But the amount spent researching possible treatments for the condition, which affects 500,000 people in the UK is less than a tenth of the amount spent on heart disease.

The study by the Centre for the Economics of Mental Health calculated that the state has to spend 14bn treating and caring for dementia patients.

The bill is so large because many Alzheimer's patients live on in a highly-dependent state for many years, on average eight after diagnosis.

It is estimated that the average Alzheimer's condition needs 45 hours of home care a week, with a home-help assistant costing in many cases more than 9 an hour.

World Alzheimer's Day

Today has been designated World Alzheimer's Day in an effort to raise the profile of the illness, which causes a gradual mental degeneration.

The report's author, Professor Martin Knapp, said: "The true extent of the impact is not widely appreciated.

"Research into Alzheimer's is extraordinarily underfunded."

Although current drugs seem to be able to lessen the symptoms of Alzheimer's in some patients, there is no cure.

However, there is controversy over the efficacy of these drugs, and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence is currently evaluating their "value for money" to the NHS.

Other researchers are still hopeful of producing a vaccine for the disease, even though its cause and development are not yet fully understood.

Approximately 80% of people with Alzheimer's live at home, and are cared for by relatives.

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