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Reimbursements Swiss medical community stands up for Alzheimer patients

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Currently 151,000 people have dementia in Switzerland. The number is expected to double by 2040.

(Keystone)

Leading Swiss medical institutions are calling for Alzheimer diagnosis and treatment to be reimbursed by compulsory health care institutions.

Fifteen institutions issued a statement to that effect on Sunday in a bid to counter prevailing scepticism about the existence and treatability of the disease, which affects a growing number of Swiss.external link

Alzheimer Switzerland and the Memory Center of Geneva University Hospital (HUG) are among the organisations that took this position, in line with the 2014-2019 national strategy on dementia.

Dementia, according to these institutions, is clearly a disease that is not part of the normal ageing process. The causes are mainly neurodegenerative or vascular.

Patients, they say, have the right to receive the best treatment.

"This stance, which is based on long consideration, was necessary for the enormous responsibility that we have towards our patients," Giovanni Frisoni, director of the HUG Memory Center, told Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA.

Search for therapies

It is also a question of responding to "deniers" for whom Alzheimer's is not a disease. 

"This minority makes a lot of noise but does not contribute in any way to the reflection on the disease and the search for therapies," Frisoni says.

In France, he notes, the costs of dementia drugs have not been reimbursed by health insurance since last year. The products Aricept, Ebixa, Exelon and Reminyl are the only ones approved and reimbursed in Switzerland.

"Without them there is no alternative," Frisoni  stresses.

Demographic changes

Although these drugs do not treat Alzheimer's, they have nevertheless proved their effectiveness. They temporarily improve the condition of patients or stabilise cognitive symptoms for up to 18 months, according to the joint statement.

Early diagnosis and treatment also improve people's autonomy, allowing them to live longer at home. The combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapeutic approaches is necessary and is emphasised in the position paper.

Currently 151,000 people have dementia in Switzerland. Due to demographic changes, the medical community estimates 300,000 people will be affected by dementia in 2040.

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