Congress Starting to Consider Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act
Earlier this week, I attended a seminar on Alzheimer’s disease hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association. As part of the seminar, the audience viewed a video about research breakthroughs that was developed as part of HBO’s The Alzheimer’s Project. Even though it’s been a couple of years since this series was produced, I was amazed at how much progress researchers are making in learning about dementia. Although there’s still not a cure for any of the dementias, the video makes it evident that scientists are opening up new lines of inquiry that are pulling back the curtain on this devastating disease. This research may lead to the identification of lifestyle changes and the development of drugs that will help slow and maybe even stop dementia in its tracks.
However, the amount of research funding available from the National Institutes of Health is paltry in comparison to what is offered to HIV/AIDS, cancer, and heart disease researchers. In 2011, Alzheimer’s research received $450 million, as compared to more than $3 billion for HIV/AIDS, $4.2 billion for heart and cardiovascular disease, and $5.8 billion for cancer. I don’t want to imply that research into these other diseases isn’t important and I realize that these investments have led to significant findings that have helped combat strokes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and breast cancer.
I believe it’s time to substantially increase the funding for Alzheimer’s research because of the looming tsunami of Alzheimer’s and other dementias that are about to engulf the United States economy. “Over the next 40 years, caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s will cost American society $20 trillion – including $15 trillion to Medicare and Medicaid,” the Alzheimer’s Association states. Furthermore, the Medicare and Medicaid costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s are expected to jump from $130 billion currently to $800 billion by mid-century. However, if a treatment was found that delayed the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years, government spending on this terrible disease would be cut by nearly half in 2050.
Therefore, I was very willing to contact my U.S. representative when I recently received a call to action about the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act of 2011 from the Alzheimer’s Association. This act, which is known as House Resolution 1897, “would require the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to accelerate the development of treatments that prevent, cure, or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and reduce the financial burden of Alzheimer’s on federally funded programs and families,” the Alzheimer’s Association reported. HR 1897 has been recently reintroduced into the House of Representatives by Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Edward Markey (D-MA), but has not been reintroduced into the Senate.
The Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act would require the implementation of three key strategies. These points are:
- Make Alzheimer’s research a priority at the NIH through pursuing emerging scientific and research opportunities around the NIH’s 27 institutes and centers as well as adopting the research recommendations from the National Alzheimer’s Plan.
- Create public-private partnerships that will focus their research efforts on developing treatments and a cure.
- Require NIH’s leadership to provide the necessary funding to support the research.
So how hard is it to contact your congressman? The Alzheimer’s Association actually has made it really easy to do so online. Their system identifies who your representative is and offers a standard letter of support that you can use as is or edit to reflect your own views about supporting this measure. In addition, it provides you with an opportunity to email the letter directly to your representative or to print it out on letterhead so you can mail it.
So I hope you’ll take a few moments and join with me in encouraging your congressman to join the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia through supporting the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act. Those few moments could have a really big impact in finding a way to stop this disease!