New York Pharma Forum Holds Symposium on the Future of Aging
By: New York Pharma Forum
The program took place on December 5th at the New York Athletic Club in New York City and featured four other speakers in addition to Mr. Matsue, the panel facilitator:
· Dallas Salisbury, president and CEO of the Employee Benefits Research Institute,
· Rachel Schindler, M.D., clinical disease area expert for Alzheimer’s Disease and vice president, clinical sciences, at Pfizer Inc.
· Ursula M. Staudinger, Ph.D. founding director, the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University,
· and Toshihiko Takeda, deputy director-general of the Health Insurance Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare of Japan
Dr. Staudinger spoke about social and cultural influences on aging. She stated, “As knowledge of epigenetics is unfolding, we are learning … how intricate and complex the influences of social/cultural context … are. Our [own] thoughts, decisions and attitudinal behaviors are also very influential for our aging process.”
She added, “We have been witness to the historical relativity of … the meaning of chronological age. Culture has been changing biology. We never thought that was possible, but it has happened, and it’s going on right now.” As an example, Dr. Staudinger showed a famous Albrecht Dürer portrait drawn 500 years ago, “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother at the Age of 63,” which shows a woman who looks the way a 100-year-old might look today, and contrasted it with a modern photograph of a healthy 63-year-old woman. Dürer’s mother lived a physically and emotionally grueling life, giving birth to 18 children, of whom only three survived. She concluded that modern-day 63-year-olds have a different biology, which has been influenced by modern culture.
Mr. Takeda spoke about the effect of Japan’s rapidly aging population on society, government and industry. “In the last 100 years, the Japanese population has doubled,” he said. “But 100 years from now, the population is projected to be what it was 100 years ago.” He explained that Japan has seen an increase in the age 70 and older population, a decrease in childbirths and continually declining population in rural areas and smaller towns and cities.
“The government will act in several ways to cope with greatly increased healthcare costs for the elderly: restructuring medical and care service providers, changing medical services, national health insurance reforms, and revitalizing local communities to prevent so-called ‘vanishing municipalities,’”
“We are encouraging medical societies to move from hospital-centered medicine to community-based comprehensive care,” he noted. “The national government will require prefectural governments to develop a local health care vision and manage national health insurance locally.” There will also be more emphasis on home-based care, he added.
Dr. Schindler spoke about the challenges Alzheimer’s Disease poses and prospects for drugs to fight it. About 34 million people are affected by dementia worldwide, and over half is caused by AD, she said. Non-modifiable risk factors for AD include age, gender and family history, she explained. Modifiable risk factors include depression, physical inactivity, hypertension, obesity, smoking and education level. “What is heart-healthy is also brain-healthy,”
Changes in the brain start to occur about 20 years before AD symptoms appear, Dr. Schindler noted, which makes middle age a critical time to modify risky behaviors.
“A big improvement in AD diagnostics has helped us better understand pathological changes that previously could only be seen in biopsies,” she said. “This has aided drug development.”
Dr. Schindler pointed out multiple potential intervention points in AD, and said current pipeline drug development targets many of them, ranging from secretase inhibitors of enzymes to prevent “bad” amyloid from forming, to statins and other cholesterol-
According to research by Mr. Salisbury’s organization, Baby Boomers and Gen X are better prepared for retirement than previous generations, and more realistic about its financial challenges. The two factors that influence retirement readiness the most are income level and life expectancy, he pointed out. “The challenge is to make money last for a lifetime, and life income annuities can help,” he said. “Life annuities that only begin to pay benefits in old age, such as 80 or 85, so-called QLACs or ‘longevity annuities,’ will help.”
He said a couple might well need $250,000 in retirement just to cover health expenses. Medicare will cover about half of retirement medical expenses, about $390,000 for a couple. “Those who have chronic illnesses or who need to take a lot of prescription drugs are particularly vulnerable” to not being able to afford healthcare costs, he said. “Some of the new specialty drugs, ‘designer drugs’ and personalized medicines, can cost as much as $300,000 per year per individual, which will create a big challenge for health insurance, Medicare and individuals,”
Even retirees in the highest income quartile but also in the highest health expenses quartile will have a significant probability of running out of money, Mr. Salisbury added. “Longevity and pharmacology advances are good news, but also create tremendous challenges.”
“Americans are doing more in each generation to be better prepared for retirement,”
A podcast of the program is available free on the New York Pharma Forum website.
Prior to the General Assembly, the organization held its annual meeting and elected a new board of directors and officers. Thomas Heffner, Ph.D., Executive Director of Global Business Development at Pfizer, was re-elected as president. Other officers elected were:
· Vice presidents: Yasunori Tawaragi, Ph.D., President, Asubio Pharmaceuticals;
· Secretary: Yasuhiko Sakoe, Ph.D., President, Kyorin USA
· Treasurer: Kenji Kaneko, Executive Director, Strategic Alliances, Merck & Co
New York Pharma Forum