Ann Geriatr Med Res.  2021 Mar;25(1):33-38. 10.4235/agmr.20.0082.

Is Korea Prepared for an Alzheimer’s Disease-Modifying Therapy? Assessing the Korean Healthcare System Infrastructure and the Effect of Blood-Based Biomarker Tests

  • 1Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 2University of Houston College of Pharmacy, Houston, TX, USA
  • 3Center for Economic and Social Research, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA


With the rapid demographic change in Korea, Alzheimer’s disease has become a primary concern. Recent developments in disease-modifying therapies provide hope that therapy may become available soon. The high disease prevalence and complex evaluation process will create challenges for the healthcare system already burdened by the current pandemic. This study examined the preparedness of the South Korean healthcare system to identify and treat patients when such a therapy becomes available.
We used a Markov model to simulate a stylized patient’s journey. Based on national data and expert input, we presented projections of the diagnosis and treatment wait times and respective queues of patients under treatment and no-treatment scenarios and further simulated the possible option of adopting a blood-based biomarker test.
Under the current system, we estimated a peak waiting time of 14 months when a treatment became available, largely because of the limited number of dementia specialists. Adopting a blood-based biomarker test dramatically reduced the initial wait times by more than half. A disease-modifying therapy was estimated to avert 575,000 incident cases in the first 10 years after the treatment entered the market, and a blood-based test further avoided 86,000 additional cases.
South Korea’s healthcare infrastructure requires more preparation for the introduction of a disease-modifying therapy, with the primary capacity limitation being the low number of dementia specialists. The utilization of a blood-based test for Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers may be an effective solution.


Alzheimer’s disease; Mild cognitive impairment; Disease-modifying therapy; Blood-based biomarkers; Republic of Korea
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