Alzheimer's disease cast as 'urgent national priority' with $156 million funding

The Obama administration announced Feb. 7 that it plans to invest $156 million over two years to fight Alzheimer’s disease and its associated effects.

The administration is making $50 million immediately available for Alzheimer’s research and is including $80 million in its fiscal year 2013 budget — a boost toward Alzheimer’s research that exceeds current annual Alzheimer’s research funding by more than 25 percent.

Additionally, $26 million will go toward caregiver support, provider education, public awareness and improvements in data infrastructure.

“[Tuesday’s] announcement reflects this administration’s commitment to confronting Alzheimer’s, a disease that takes a devastating toll on millions of Americans,” said Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “We can’t wait to act; reducing the burden of Alzheimer’s disease on patients and their families is an urgent national priority.”

The Alzheimer’s Association, in a report released last year, estimated that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and that the number of those with the disease will increase to 13.2 million by 2050 with an estimated treatment cost of $1.1 trillion.

The administration’s financial support comes a month after President Barack Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Act, which calls for the creation and implementation of a national plan to attack the disease. An advisory council of more than two dozen members are drafting a national plan, due to be delivered to HHS this spring. The plan will address Alzheimer’s on multiple fronts, including research, education and training of professional and non-professional caregivers, public awareness and support for unpaid caregivers, who the Alzheimer’s Association estimates saved the country $202 billion in 2010 through their unpaid care.

“The administration’s efforts to carve out funds for Alzheimer’s disease despite the challenging fiscal environment signals its ongoing commitment to this devastating disease, and helps pave the way for scientific discoveries that can potentially change lives and save lives,” said Eric Hall, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s president and CEO. Hall serves as a member of the national plan’s advisory council.

“We’re racing against the clock to advance a solution to this crisis from both cure and care standpoints,” Hall added. “Our aging population can’t wait any longer. It is imperative that we continue to focus on the bigger picture and move toward our goal to defeat Alzheimer’s disease and provide vital support to families. This type of investment is critical so that it doesn’t cost the government, as well as families, more in the long run.”

Follow Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.

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