Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have yearly global costs $248 billion, Swedish researchers estimate.

Bengt Winblad, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, calculated the figures based on direct costs -- such as medical treatment -- and indirect costs -- such as informal care from family members.

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Winblad and colleagues had previously estimated that dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, had $156 billion in worldwide direct costs in 1993. They took that figure and added on an estimated $92 billion in indirect costs to get the grand total of $248 billion.

The findings were released at the 10th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders. The conference, presented by the Alzheimer’s Association, is being held this week in Madrid, Spain.

The researchers estimated indirect costs based on published papers about informal care for dementia patients’ basic daily activities, and on average wages in different countries. In other words, they gauged how much time someone would spend giving informal care to a dementia patient, and what that time might equal in wages.

The researchers note that their assumptions “include both uncertainties and variability.” That is, they’re not sure they got their numbers exactly right.

“However, this study demonstrates that the worldwide costs of dementia are substantial,” they write.

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SOURCES: 10th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, Madrid, Spain, July 15-20, 2006. News release, Alzheimer’s Association.