U.S. Focuses on Alzheimer’s Research

The U.S. government is taking serious action against Alzheimer’s disease with a special task force and a boost of $50 million towards Alzheimer’s research. In 2013, another $80 million will be awarded. The initial sum includes $26 million allocated to caregiver support, public awareness and education and data infrastructure support, DailyRx reports.

It all started with The National Alzheimer’s Project Act, signed into law last year, which aims to develop strategies for improving diagnostics, treatment options and social support for those afflicted with the disease, their loved ones and caregivers. The initiative came to fruition in light of the staggering statistics demonstrating that more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which has a significant financial and emotional toll on families affected and contributes an estimated $180 billion in healthcare costs each year.

Alzheimer's research

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The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease

The Department of Health and Human Services advisory panel rolled out its draft framework of The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease early in 2012. The plan includes ambitious goals, such as both preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2025.

While the plan evoked mixed responses from leading senior living groups, including ALFA, which drafted a response expressing concern that assisted living wasn’t considered as part of a plan to manage and care for individuals with the illness. Kaiser Health News asked a number of leading health executives to share their thoughts on the initial plan, including areas it may be falling short.

While most of those interviewed were pleased with the effort to tackle this growing problem, several interviewees pointed out some potential shortcomings. Robert Egge, Vice President of Public Policy for the Alzheimer’s Association, says he hopes the first draft will contain specific, measurable and attainable outcomes, noting that “the stakes are high.”

Dr. Rachelle S. Doody, the Effie Marie Cain Chair in Alzheimer’s disease research at the Baylor College of Medicine, who directs the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center, also weighed in with her reactions.  Doody tells Kaiser Health News that the overall objective to prevent and effectively treat the disease by 2025 is promising and illustrates the government’s dedication to advancing research, but the draft framework fails to identify how new research will be translated to practice, nor a target date for doing so.

One thing is clear: No time for delays

Experts and commentators consistently agree on one point: There’s no time to hesitate implementing a plan of action to address this disease. As the population continues to age, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease could double by the year 2050. The devastating emotional and financial impacts on both family members and the healthcare system as a whole mean that doubling the current impact could be the country’s tipping point. But will it be enough, and will the plan work? Many are anxiously awaiting the first draft of the National Plan with hope that it outlines a solid and attainable strategic course of action.

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