Movement on Funding for Alzheimer's Research

02/08/2012 02:39 pm ET | Updated Apr 09, 2012

When multiple moving parts are at play, it's only logical that things will start advancing. That's what is happening now in the Alzheimer's disease cause.

The Obama Administration's announcement that it will pump $50 million into Alzheimer's disease research this year and will propose $80 million in Alzheimer's disease research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the 2013 fiscal year, plus $26 million for caregiver support, signals a step toward the nation's goal to defeat Alzheimer's disease.

It goes hand-in-hand with the work currently underway to craft the first-ever national plan to prevent, delay and ultimately cure Alzheimer's disease, as mandated under the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) signed into law last year by President Obama.

In light of this strategic effort, additional federal funding provides necessary "seed" money to meet the ambitious goals set out in the plan's draft framework and helps pave the way for scientific discoveries that can potentially change lives and save lives.

In these grim economic times, incremental steps are welcome. For the Administration to carve out funds in this climate heightens the cause to the level Americans deserve. Most likely, every one of the estimated 5.1 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer's disease and every family who has witnessed the devastation of this brain disorder would agree that Alzheimer's disease warrants the same funding levels awarded to cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions. With $450 million annually now dedicated to Alzheimer's disease research at NIH, significant catch up still needs to occur.

We are racing against the clock. As the nation's baby boomers reach the at-risk age of 65 for Alzheimer's disease, more and more people are counting on funding for supportive services and research to accelerate drugs in the pipeline to spare others the harsh fate of Alzheimer's disease.

In advocating for increased funding for both cure and care related to Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America has highlighted the steep shortfall in funding for NIH and specifically the National Institute on Aging, the primary federal agency responsible for Alzheimer's disease research.

As noted in an AFA report, "Penny Wise, Pound Foolish," released more than 18 months ago,
"Simply put, our nation does not have the luxury of time to address the health research needs of this population."

Increased funding to prevent, treat or cure chronic diseases of the aging, such as Alzheimer's disease, is perhaps the single most effective strategy in reducing national spending on health care. Unprecedented increases in age-related diseases as the population ages are one reason the Congressional Budget Office projects that total healthcare spending will soar to 25 percent of the GDP by 2025 from 17 percent today.

The investment announced by the Administration -- with hopefully more to come -- is critical so that it doesn't cost the government, as well as families, more in the long run.

For more by Eric J. Hall, click here.

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