While Asia has made enormous leaps in economic progress by decreasing levels of poverty sharply, it also meant social and lifestyle changes such as diet change and increased urban pollution.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that healthcare costs are rising exponentially in Asia, especially with the predicted increase in the number of patients diagnosed with cancer, as well as those suffering from stroke and dementia in the next decade.

WHO says Asia's healthcare costs will rise starkly over next 10 years

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In Southeast Asia, the late treatment and diagnoses of cancer results in 1.3 million deaths a year. Along with diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic lung diseases, they are responsible for 40 million or 70% of the world's 56 million deaths in 2015.

In 2015, the expenditure on cancer drugs rose by 11.5% to USD107 billion and is predicted to rise to USD150 billion by 2020 due to the development of newer and more specialised drugs.

Especially affected are the developing countries such as India, where cancer is the leading cause of death, with over 2.5 million patients. It is also predicted that India will see a five-fold increase of the disease by 2025. Other countries such as China, report four million new cancer cases in 2016 itself, and experts say that the national health bill will increase four-fold to USD1.84 trillion by 2025.

Cancer patients and family care givers are faced with high costs of approved drugs therefore often seeking out generic drugs on the gray market for cheaper options, however those drugs are usually ineffective or fake.

The drug approval process in China has also led delayed presence of drugs on the Chinese market - up to a decade after the appearance of it in the US market. The scenario is similar in India, leading to increased costs of launching a drug in these markets.

Stroke and dementia

In 2012, it is estimated that 35.6 million people worldwide are living with dementia and it is estimated to reach 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050.

Almost 60% of cases is concentrated in low and middle income countries, and it is expected to increase in coming years. This pushes millions of household past below the poverty line, making the disease a "public health priority", the WHO said.

In recent years, growing evidence-based studies have surfaced, associating high rates of pollution - most evident in China - with strokes and dementia. China experiences more than a million premature deaths due to smog during winter seasons, cutting life expectancies by two to five years.

This becomes a global problem as current between the continents can carry air from one continent to another, and also within continents. Closest to China are countries such as Japan, Korea and Thailand, therefore the increase in air pollution in China, will affect them, increasing the numbers of people suffering from stroke and dementia, and consequently increasing healthcare costs in the future.

India is not exempted from this problem - as many as 1.2 million deaths occur each year due to air pollution.

As of 2012, WHO reported that the mortality rates per 100,000 due to air pollution is 130 in India, 163.1 in China, 234.1 in North Korea, 82.7 in the Philippines, 20.5 in Singapore, 23.4 in Malaysia, 65.3 and 83.9 in Indonesia. A study in 2016 also proved that air pollution is significantly linked to an increased risk of cancer as well.

Asia will need to address the issues of pollution to decrease pollution induced strokes and dementia in increasingly ageing populations. MIMS

Read more:
WHO: Nine out of ten people globally are breathing polluted air
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