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Dates: 2009
Funding: Alzheimer's Research Trust
Information: Ramon Luengo-Fernandez


The study reported here estimates the economic burden from a societal perspective that includes not only health care costs but also those costs falling outside the health care sector, such as the opportunity costs associated with unpaid care to patients, or productivity losses associated with premature death or absence from work due to dementia. The aim was to compare the economic burden of dementia with that of cancer, coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke using the same methodological approach. Cancer, CHD and stroke are the three main causes of death in Europe and the USA. The UK government and charity research funding was also examined for each of the four conditions in the financial year 2007/08. The aim was to compare the levels of UK research funding with the respective economic burden of disease. It was expected that research to the causes, treatment and prevention of a particular disease should be broadly related to its economic burden.


Estimating the economic burden of illness

A prevalence approach was adopted whereby all costs within the most recent year for which data were available were measured regardless of the date of disease onset. A “top down” approach was used to estimate the total costs using aggregate data on morbidity, mortality, hospital admissions, disease related costs, and other health related indicators. Costs categories used included health care, social care, informal care, and productivity losses due to premature mortality and absence from work.

Dementia was defined as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD10) F00-F03 and G30, which include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular and unspecified dementia, as well as dementia in other diseases such as Parkinson’s. Cancer was defined as ICD-10 codes C00-D48, stroke as ICD-10 codes I60-I69, and coronary heart disease as ICD-10 codes I20-I25.

Research funding

We identified UK governmental agencies that provide health research funding and contacted them to determine the levels of funding for dementia, cancer, CHD and stroke in the financial year 2007/08. These agencies included research councils, such as the Medical Research Council (MRC), and research agencies from the Department of Health and its devolved administrations, such as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Charity organisations that fund health research were also identified from the Association for Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Due to the large number of charities in the Charity Commission register that potentially fund health research, only the top two hundred charities of these in terms of their annual income were considered in this study. These two hundred charities accounted for over 75% of the total income of all health charities potentially funding research. The levels of charity research funding for each of the four conditions were obtained from annual reports or direct contact with the charities.

Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations, Discussion

See the published full report or the executive summary at the Alzheimer's Research Trust