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CNN: Sandy’s Story

September 18, 2014
CNN launched a new series profiling Sandy Halperin, a dentist and Harvard assistant professor, to raise awareness for the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease on a patient and his family. Producer Stephanie Smith describes Sandy's Story as ‘an unprecedented look at the cruel journey of a vibrant, once healthy man as he gradually loses his memory.’ Halperin was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease at age 60. The in-depth package explores the day-to-day reality of living with the disease while struggling with memory loss, confusion, dementia and many other challenges.

An estimated 24 million people worldwide have dementia, most from Alzheimer’s disease. That number is predicted to double by 2020 – just over five years from now – and triple by 2040. The numbers are equally striking for the U.S., where more than a million people over the age of 65 are afflicted today – a number that is expected to triple by 2050.

Alzheimer’s represents a tsunami of public health challenges. Without intervention or prevention to delay or slow Alzheimer’s progression in patients, or the discovery of a cure, the disease will overwhelm the healthcare system within the next 25-30 years. The financial cost to the U.S. healthcare system of caring for individuals with the disease is estimated at over $200 million today and will rise to over $1 trillion by 2050.

How can we give patients faster access to innovative treatments and cures? That’s the question being asked of our nation’s foremost medical experts and innovators by members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee through an initiative called “21st Century Cures.”

BIO has proposed the development and execution of a large-scale, longitudinal study to sequence the genomes of 100,000 volunteers in age cohorts from those in their 20s through those in their 80s, obtain biospecimens and additional health care data from those individuals, and develop biological markers that may predict Alzheimer’s or other chronic diseases for which the cause is unknown or poorly understood.

The urgency of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s cannot be overstated. It is difficult to find anyone whose life has not been affected by this devastating disease. Biotech holds the greatest promise for finding a cure. We must act now for the patients and their families who are counting on us.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be following Sandy Halperin's story on "Sanjay Gupta, M.D." Watch the show on Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. ET and Sundays at 7:30 a.m. ET.