Finally: A Breakthrough On Funding For Alzheimer’s Research

Holding Hands with Elderly PatientThere may be good news on the horizon for present and future Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

The United States government has taken the first step toward the provision of more federal research money with the number one goal being to prevent and effectively treat this disease of the brain by 2025.

The draft framework for this plan has recently been completed, mostly due to the work of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), signed into law by President Obama last January. A number of experts have spent the year since the act went onto effect and the final draft is expected to be on Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sibelius’ desk by the end of February, if not sooner.

In a statement, Ron Peterson, who chairs the NAPA non federal advisory council and serves as the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer ’s Disease Research Center said “given the economic problems, it is a bit of a challenge, but this is our chance to make a bold statement”.

George Vradenburg, also a member of the research committee commented that the plan is good overall but has to move faster. “It’s the first time the government has talked about a time-based goal to stop Alzheimer’s. I am going to urge we accelerate the time. I’m pushing for 2020.”

Now the sixth leading cause of death in America, Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the leading killers for which there is no prevention, cure or treatment to arrest its progress. Ronald Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s, as do country singer Glen Campbell and women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt.

It affects over 5 million Americans annually and approximately 50 percent of those over the age of 85 have the disease. It is currently costing Medicare and Medicaid programs $130 billion a  year. However, as the World War II baby boomers, the nation’s largest population increase in the 20th Century ,begin to age that figure is expected to rise to $1 trillion by 2050.

In 2011, the US government spent approximately $500 million on Alzheimer’s research and related dementias. In comparison, approximately $521 million was spent on complementary and alternative medicine, $823 million on obesity and $6 billion on cancer with additional funding for breast, brain and lung cancers. The key question to be answered is “where is the money coming from?”

“We are still in the process of getting feedback and making recommendations about funding levels, “Peterson has said. “But the plan in the future will have to be in tune with the fiscal realities everyone is facing now”.

Peterson said he expects the Department of Health and Human Services to finalize the NAPA plan by mid April in time for a research summit at the National Institute of Aging.

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