Rachel Conant, Vice President Federal Affairs, Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, provides us with an update on Alzheimer’s and dementia funding rises in the United States
Each day, my colleagues and I are driven by our shared vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association is working to make this vision a reality by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximising quality care and support.
The path to realise our vision is challenging, to be sure. There are more than 5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s and an estimated 16 million are providing unpaid care for them. Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the U.S., and the price tag continues to rise, with costs projected to hit as high as $1.1 trillion per year by 2050.
“The significant investments at both the federal and private philanthropic levels are an important step in acknowledging and addressing the Alzheimer’s crisis. Recent increases in research funding not only provide millions across America with a reason to be hopeful but will undoubtedly accelerate the pace of discovery to slow, stop and prevent Alzheimer’s and all dementia through advances in basic knowledge of the diseases, early detection, new treatment targets and prevention strategies.”
Alzheimer’s and dementia research
The path to realise our vision is brightly lit. In fact, this is a very exciting time in Alzheimer’s disease research.
Congress recently passed a $350 million increase for Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding. That brings funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to $2.8 billion annually — an amount that has more than quadrupled over the last five years.
Funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia research is not only being bolstered through bipartisan support from our Senators and Representatives, but also from unprecedented levels of philanthropic investment. For example, in November 2019 Bill Gates joined the Alzheimer’s Association Part the Cloud global research grant program with an award of $10 million. Combined with an additional $20 million in funding by the Alzheimer’s Association, this $30 million in strategic funding will help propel high-risk, high-reward research aimed at uncovering underlying brain cell changes, timely diagnosis and new treatments for Alzheimer’s and all dementia.
The significant investments at both the federal and private philanthropic levels are an important step in acknowledging and addressing the Alzheimer’s crisis. Recent increases in research funding not only provide millions across America with a reason to be hopeful but will undoubtedly accelerate the pace of discovery to slow, stop and prevent Alzheimer’s and all dementia through advances in basic knowledge of the diseases, early detection, new treatment targets and prevention strategies.
To date, tremendous gains have been made in understanding the basic biology underlying Alzheimer’s. Scientists are now able to work at a more rapid pace to advance basic disease knowledge, explore ways to reduce risk, uncover new biomarkers for early diagnosis and drug targeting, and develop potential treatments.
A treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia — even by just five years — means five more years of a dementia-free life for an individual and their family. It means millions of people will never develop dementia or never reach the most severe stage of the disease, improving quality of life. A treatment would also bring billions of dollars in savings to Medicare and Medicaid, and to families.
While recent gains in research funding will help continue to lay the groundwork for a way to treat, prevent and ultimately cure Alzheimer’s, there have been many other significant achievements focused on care and support along the way.
Since the unanimous passage of the National Alzheimer’s Passage Act (NAPA) in 2011 ― which required the creation of an annually updated national strategic plan to address the rapidly escalating Alzheimer’s crisis ― the Alzheimer’s Association has worked with Congress to expand access to care and support services for those who have the disease and their millions of caregivers.
Alzheimer’s public health infrastructure
In 2018, Congress passed the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act to improve our nation’s Alzheimer’s public health infrastructure by providing resources to state and local public health officials to increase early detection and diagnosis, reduce risk, prevent avoidable hospitalisations, reduce health disparities, and support care planning for people living with the disease.
The House has passed, and the Senate is currently considering, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) which would improve both the quality of care and quality of life for those with advanced dementia through training programs for health professionals and education campaigns about available services for patients and families.
It is imperative that we continue to apply the public health approach necessary for reducing risk, detecting early symptoms, and supporting caregivers, in order to ultimately reverse Alzheimer’s devastating trajectory. But we are highly encouraged by the progress made and the commitment of lawmakers, researchers, scientists, philanthropists and caregivers to help us.