Aug 232016
 

This is the final piece of a three part series on the need to act decisively to address the Alzheimer’s crisis. Part one reviewed the fiscal imperative to address the Alzheimer’s crisis, while part two addressed the research needs and opportunities.

THE PEOPLE’S IMPERATIVE

The public is increasingly aware of the need for action. A nationwide survey the Alzheimer’s Association fielded in 2015 found that voters view Alzheimer’s disease as a significant priority. The survey found:

  • 73 million voters have had a family member or close friend with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • More than one-third, or 52 million American voters, have provided care or personal assistance to a relative, friend or neighbor with Alzheimer’s.
  • 82 percent of voters nationwide are concerned about Alzheimer’s disease.
  • 87 percent of voters feel unprepared or only somewhat prepared to meet care needs of a family member who develops Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The majority, 64 percent, of voters would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who has pledged to support a major national research effort to fight Alzheimer’s.Alzheimers Grassroot Mailer Iowa

Millions of American voters have had personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease and understand the dramatic toll the disease takes on families across the country. It is unsurprising that presidential and congressional candidates on both sides of the aisle have been discussing the Alzheimer’s crisis while campaigning.

Constituents want Washington to address this mounting health crisis by advancing research and increasing support for caregivers. This year, Alzheimer’s Association advocates are pressing for a $400 million increase in Alzheimer’s research at the NIH in order to achieve the breakthroughs needed to develop preventions and effective treatments by 2025 — the goal established in the National Alzheimer’s Plan.

Issues important to constituents can be controversial, but urgently addressing Alzheimer’s is not. Prioritizing Alzheimer’s disease research funding is smart politics for a very important reason: Americans understand it is the only way to change the deadly and expensive trajectory that is bearing down on so many American families.

This challenge unites Washington, just like the country as a whole. It is time to act.

 

About the Author: Robert Egge is the Alzheimer’s Association’s Chief Public Policy Officer and also serves as the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement

This post originally appeared on www.alzimpact.org.

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Aug 222016
 

This is part two of a three-part series on the need to act decisively to address the Alzheimer’s crisis. Part one reviewed the fiscal imperative to address the Alzheimer’s crisis, while part three reveals public opinion on the need for government to act.

The Research Imperative

The federal government has taken several important steps in recent years to address this looming crisis. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), passed unanimously by Congress in December 2010 and signed into law by President Barack Obama in January 2011, mandated a national strategic plan to address the crisis and coordinate Alzheimer’s disease efforts across the federal government. First released in 2012, the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease set a clear goal: “prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.”

There’s only one way to meet the 2025 goal: research, research and more research.

Courtesy: NIH

Courtesy: NIH

Promising research is both underway and ready for the pipeline. During the past decade, researchers have significantly advanced our understanding of how a healthy brain works and what happens to the brain of a person living with Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the new drugs in development aim to modify the disease process itself by targeting those brain changes.

This is in part why prominent scientists believe the national plan is attainable if we accelerate funding. Encouragingly, Congress has begun to heed the message:

  • The omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2015 included the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, which requires the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a professional judgment budget to execute the milestones established by NAPA. This will advise Congress on what NIH believes is needed to reach the goal of effectively treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Only cancer and HIV/AIDS have been previously designated for this special budget development aimed at speeding discovery.
  • In December of 2015, Congress passed and the president signed an omnibus spending bill that included a $350 million increase for Alzheimer’s disease research at NIH. This is the largest annual increase ever in federal Alzheimer’s research funding — a nearly 60 percent increase that brings the total spending for research investigating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to nearly $1 billion per year.

Despite this progress, we must reach higher. In 2013, the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services, which advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services, recommended investing at least $2 billion a year in research to meet the 2025 goal, as advised by scientists convened by NIH.

 

About the Author: Robert Egge is the Alzheimer’s Association’s Chief Public Policy Officer and also serves as the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement

This post originally appeared on www.alzimpact.org.

Learn More:

Aug 092016
 

This is part one of a three-part series on the need to act decisively to address the Alzheimer’s crisis. Part two addresses the research needs and opportunities. Part three reveals public opinion on the need for government to act.

In the three seconds it takes you to read this sentence, taxpayers will have spent more than $15,000 on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Within the hour, the cost will reach $18.3 million.

Our nation’s entitlement programs are coming under increasing strain as the cost of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are poised to cost Medicare and Medicaid $160 billion this year alone. At this moment, more than five million people are living with the disease, and, without medical breakthroughs, by 2050 that statistic may be as high as 16 million people at a cost of $1.1 trillion per year to Medicare and Medicaid.

The baby-boom generation is on track to become Generation Alzheimer’s, as more than 28 million of them are expected to develop the disease.

Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to loss of memory, thinking capacity and other brain functions. Over time, those with the disease become entirely dependent on others for all activities of daily living. Those with severe or late stage Alzheimer’s eventually lose their ability to eat, bathe and manage their own bodily functions. It is a devastating disease for those living with it and for their families who watch their loved ones slip away. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s is always fatal. We cannot yet celebrate a single Alzheimer’s survivor.ALZ-18.3M-01

What’s more, there are no available therapies to address the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s, making it the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. With its soaring prevalence, lack of effective treatment and skyrocketing costs, Alzheimer’s disease is a crippling triple threat unlike any other disease.

In just a few decades Alzheimer’s has reached epidemic proportions, while the federal research funding necessary to better understand and eliminate the disease has been insufficient to meet scientific recommendations. A few months ago, however, Congress took an important step with the largest-ever federal funding increase for Alzheimer’s disease research, which now totals nearly $1 billion per year. While this is a promising step in the journey to end this epidemic, the nation’s top scientists and researchers have told Congress that research funding must be brought up to at least $2 billion per year — a level comparable to that for other major diseases — if Congress intends to make adequate progress against this disease in time to be relevant for most Baby Boomers.

The Fiscal Imperative

Already America’s most expensive disease with an estimated cost of care at $236 billion a year, excluding unpaid family caregiving, the cost to our nation will only continue to grow as our nation’s population ages.

  • Today, an estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, including approximately 200,000 under the age of 65. One in nine people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s, and one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
  • Increasing age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and the U.S. population is aging. As baby boomers reach the age of greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s, it can be expected that — barring a treatment or breakthrough — millions of them will spend their retirement years either living with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it.
  • And while the medical community is working hard to find treatments, today the five drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Alzheimer’s only temporarily help memory and thinking problems in about half of the people who take them. The medications do not treat the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s.
  • Alzheimer’s makes treating patients with multiple diseases more expensive, and most individuals with Alzheimer’s typically suffer from more than one chronic condition. For example, a patient with diabetes and Alzheimer’s costs Medicare 81 percent more than a patient who only has diabetes, according to our analysis of Medicare claims data.

This is a disastrous formula for Medicare. Today, Medicare already spends one dollar of every five on care for beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. By 2050, that will increase to one dollar of every three. And, in 2050 Medicare spending just on people with Alzheimer’s disease will be almost as much as the total defense budget is today.

About the Author: Robert Egge is the Alzheimer’s Association’s Chief Public Policy Officer and also serves as the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement

This post originally appeared on www.alzimpact.org.

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