Estimating the Global Cost of Heart Failure
Permalink | View Comments (4) | Post Comment | | Posted by Reason

The financial costs of degenerative aging are vast. Each year hundreds and possibly thousands of times what it would cost to fully develop a demonstration of first generation SENS rejuvenation biotechnologies is spent or lost due to aging and age-related disease. This is depressing but fairly standard for any field of research and development: the funds allocated towards finding ways to improve the situation are usually minuscule in comparison to the funds that go towards running, coping with, or propping up the status quo. It's amazing that anything ever improves when you look at that split of investment.

You can look back into the Fight Aging! archives to find various estimates from the research community on the ongoing cost of specific diseases. The costs incurred by stroke patients in the US alone are thought to be in the vicinity of $50 billion each year, for example. Various forms of skeletal and muscular degeneration may add another $20 billion, and some researchers suggests that dementia costs more than $150 billion each year. Grand totals in the US from mainstream data providers approach $300 billion in direct costs, with much more in lost productivity every year.

Here researchers run worldwide numbers on heart failure, another of the major causes of age-related death. The total given in the abstract is surprisingly low, considering per-condition cost estimates I've seen elsewhere, such as those mentioned above:

The annual global economic burden of heart failure

We estimated the overall cost of heart failure in 2012, in both direct and indirect terms, across the globe. Existing country-specific heart failure costs analyses were expressed as a proportion of gross domestic product and total healthcare spend. Using World Bank data, these proportional values were used to interpolate the economic cost of HF for countries of the world where no published data exists. Countries were categorized according to their level of economic development to investigate global patterns of spending.

197 countries were included in the analysis, covering 98.7% of the world's population. The overall economic cost of HF in 2012 was estimated at $108 billion per annum. Direct costs accounted for ~60% ($65 billion) and indirect costs accounted for ~40% ($43 billion) of the overall spend. Heart failure spending varied widely between high-income and middle and low-income countries. High-income countries spend a greater proportion on direct costs: a pattern reversed for middle and low-income countries.

The indirect costs that include lost productivity are more usually several times the size of the direct costs, but that all depends on methodology and definitions. The total for direct costs globally is a small multiple of US-only direct costs in other conditions, so perhaps these scientists are defining heart failure very narrowly, excluding the costs of the chronic conditions and events such as heart attacks that lead to heart failure.

Either way, these are the costs that might be avoided through the development of rejuvenation therapies. Some people are persuaded by finances rather than human costs of suffering and death: the numbers have long been very persuasive. The cost of even fully funded development is small compared to the costs of aging as they stand today.

Comments

While I totally agree that heart disease costs a LOT of money each year, and that you could fund a lot of SENS research with this money. I think you are not looking at it like the average politician/person/scientist.

You are assuming that the SENS approach will work and will delay death indefinitely. Your average person on the street assumes that if your cure very old people of heart disease they will just die just as expensively of cancer or Alzheimers, so there won't be any real saving. They'd view fixing heart disease as being somewhere on the continuum of pointlessness towards polishing brass on the Titanic.

Curing or reducing heart disease is something that most people can imagine and believe in. Curing death is not (at the moment at least).

Posted by: Jim at January 11, 2014 10:50 PM

-Jim

Curing death isn't something most people can believe in or imagine because people like you insist on using words like "curing death". People are turned off by anything "immortality" related and attatching such stigma to something like SENS is only hurting the cause. Ending the pain and suffering associated with aging, aka improving health so people can spend more time with their loved ones and do more of the things they enjoy is a much better message.

Posted by: johnathan at January 12, 2014 8:58 AM

@Jonathan

I don't think a change in what we call something will change the average person's point of view (unfortunately). Saying "postponing aging" will still generate dismismal from the average politician/person/scientist as this has never been done in humans, and in rats has only been done by starving them.

Most people regard SENS with a bit of curiosity, but then suspect it is another snake oil pitch, as there is a lack of evidence to dispell this notion. Show people a group of regular mice that are 7 years old and youthful and opinions will start to change.

I fully agree with Reason that it is a shame that so much money is spent on treatment, and that a fraction of it could bring technological breakthroughs that prevent the disease in the first place... but I am pointing out that the logic of the argument isn't going to have any affect on the wider public who believe that aging is inevitable (unless they see those mice demonstrations) and that even if heart disease rates in the very old were reduced, old people would just get cancer or something else instead.

Still bootstrapping isn't that hopeless. If SENS can perhaps wipe out senescent cells in a mouse, prevent mitochondrial mutations from taking their toll, and prevent immunosenescence, then maybe that will generate a much healthier and longer living mouse, after which research dollars may flow more freely.

Posted by: Jim at January 12, 2014 10:01 AM

I don't view SENS as an immortality extender, if as a result of their research we have a longer lifespan that's a positive step. I view SENS as a very valuable and "ahead of its time" & vitally necessary Research Institute that is looking in an "outside the box" way at the basics++ of how to keep cells/the body in a healthy state as is optimally possible throughout life and especially as a person matures - a description in simple terms.

Therefore it benefits humans at ALL stages of life and stops at an early stage the lead up to the diseases of "old age". Therefore saving Individuals $$ & Countries billions of $$$ and providing a healthier, happier life for all. Its quite possible that other solutions to diseases can come forth from SENS research to benefit mankind or for other Researchers to incorporate into their work - many whom work for well-equipped and funded laboratories by commercial interests. The small amount that SENS require and the more than likely positive results that can ensue from their research, should, and needs to be supported by those that can do so & especially Governments.

Posted by: Deirdre at January 13, 2014 6:18 AM
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