France Has Not Invested Enough to Prepare for the Threat Posed by Alzheimer’s Disease

 The president of France Alzheimer, Joël Jaouen, and the director of the Global Coalition on Aging, Mike Hodin, warn in an op-ed for ‘Le Monde’ about the government’s disengagement in terms of financing disease prevention and access to care. This piece originally appeared in French.

 France, like almost every developed country in the world, is aging – a demographic fact that will lead to new public health challenges as significant as the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, more than 20% of the population is 65 years or older. By 2050, that number will rise to nearly 30%.

The aging of France all but guarantees a continuous rise in diseases that target the elderly. And perhaps the most devastating is Alzheimer’s – a disease that robs people of their memories, their independence, and their right to age with dignity. 

The big question is: Is France taking the actions needed to prepare for the looming Alzheimer’s pandemic? 

Unfortunately, the answer is a disappointing “no” – the current government is not investing adequately to prepare for the coming Alzheimer’s crisis. In fact, the country has taken several steps backward. And, in many ways, the crisis is already here. 

Today, more than 1.2 million people in France are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias – a figure that will inevitably rise with the aging population. This devastating disease became the fourth leading cause of death in France in 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

 To help stakeholders gauge France’s ability to meet this challenge, the Global Coalition on Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease International released the 2021 Alzheimer’s Innovation Readiness Index. The Index examines progress against several important measures of readiness, including a country’s policy and political commitment, early detection and diagnosis efforts, access to care and other factors. 

Overall, France currently ranks in the middle of the pack among European countries. Yet there are troubling signs that France risks falling behind. 

Most importantly, France’s political leaders have reneged on previous funding commitments to Alzheimer’s, signaling a lack of political will to address this slow-moving pandemic. 

Overall federal funding is down considerably compared to the €1.6 billion commitment of the Sarkozy years. In the Hollande administration, investment fell to €470 million and was spread over multiple diseases.

Restoring funding to previous levels is desperately needed to improve France’s diagnostic infrastructure, which is critical to ensuring early detection of the disease and putting people on the right care pathways before it’s too late. 

France also needs to make sizable investments to boost the country’s supply of trained caregivers. This is essential not simply to create enough supply to meet coming demand, but also to provide relief to family members and loved ones often shoulder this responsibility. As of 2015, these informal caregivers were already providing about €14 billion worth of care – a figure that is surely higher today and completely unsustainable.

According to the Index, France also ranks near the bottom in terms of access to care. This is also because prescriptions for Alzheimer’s therapies have plunged following the health ministry’s 2018 decision to cut all reimbursements.

Reimbursement strategies for Alzheimer’s drugs should also be revisited. This will produce better health outcomes for people who rely on current therapies and boost incentives for investments in new breakthroughs that can slow disease progression. 

President Macron’s new government — and the soon-to-be-elected French parliamentarians — have a unique opportunity to change course, by boosting funding in these key areas. In doing so, they can help France reassume the leadership position it held during the implementation of the 2008-2012 Alzheimer Plan and reduce the long-term economic and social burden of Alzheimer’s. At the same time, they can dramatically improve the lives of millions of its older citizens, their family members and loved ones who will be impacted by this devastating disease. 

Source: Le Monde

Latest Developments

We keep our members and partners in touch with the most recent updates and opinions in the worldwide dialogue on population longevity and related issues.

Ignoring the ‘Silver Economy’ May Be Getting Costly for Brands

In an ad for Airbnb that premiered earlier this year, a couple checks into a cozy Spanish villa. To the tune of Jay-Z's cover of "Me and My Girlfriend," the ad shows the pair settling into their rental and setting their collective dial to chill. They play ping-pong, sip some wine, and get ready for a night on the town. They're also in their 80s, celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary. In no way does the ad characterize the couple as elderly or portray them as needing special aid or services — they are just active people who happen to be old. It's a rare example of ads featuring a realistic depiction of aging.

Health Equity Promise and That Innovation Thing

President Biden has pledged his administration to defeat cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases that target America’s aging population. To achieve these lofty goals, bold words must be backed up by bold actions.

Roundtable Report Highlights Importance of Immunizing Canada’s Caregivers Against Influenza, Identifying Challenges and Opportunities to Protect This Critical Group

The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today released a report summarizing key insights from an expert roundtable on vaccinating Canada’s caregivers against influenza. The roundtable, held virtually, brought together leading Canadian health policy experts, family caregivers, patient advocacy groups, aging experts, and other thought leaders to discuss challenges and strategies to reach this critically important yet hard-to-reach group.

Women, Work, Wellness, and That Aging Thing…

The OECD Forum’s virtual event Women at The Frontline of the Recovery will presciently focus attention among policymakers and the public stakeholders alike on the unique relationship between the age demographic mega-trend and the essential policies needed for OECD economies to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Headlines of the Future Podcast: Decoding Healthy Aging

How can advancements in science and medicine make it possible for individuals to enjoy greater health and activity in their later years? For health leaders and organizations such as the Global Coalition on Aging, ensuring individuals can truly shine in their "Golden Years" is a matter of revisiting education and communication strategies, advancing digital health technologies and expanding access to healthcare innovation.

Longer Lifespans Require Secure Financial Futures

As many as half of 5-year-olds in the United States can now expect to live to 100, a population that is projected to swell in the decades ahead. Longer lifespans don’t guarantee a financially secure later life, however. If anything, in the absence of significant planning, extreme longevity may make financial security harder to attain.