Merck CEO: Alzheimer's Tsunami Coming

As society is living longer and longer, the risks of diseases such as Alzheimer’s are becoming even greater. Of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's, an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And as more Baby Boomers age that number may triple to 13 million by 2050.

“At 85 you have a one in three chance of getting Alzheimer’s or that form of dementia, so this is an incredible tsunami that’s hitting our society given the fact that people are living longer,” said Merck CEO Ken Frazier (NYSE:MRK) during an appearance with the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.

Frazier elaborated on Merck’s pipeline, which includes a drug to treat the disease.

“We have a drug that we’re actually going to get data on in the middle of 2017.  It’s called a BACE inhibitor.  And what we know from human genetic studies is if you have lower levels of BACE, you’re much less likely to have dementia,” he said while explaining  the science of how it would work.

“What we need is a drug that slows down the death of the neurons, slows down the dementia process” he added.

Along with becoming a health epidemic, Alzheimer’s is a financial one as well. An estimated $236 billion was spent on caretakers and related treatments, through 2016 per the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We have high hopes for it, the world needs it,” Frazier said of the drug.

The fight to find a treatment has not been an easy one. Last November, Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) disclosed its experimental, late-stage drug failed in trials and that it would not seek FDA approval.