With President Obama’s signature, the first national action plan for Alzheimer’s disease became law in 2011, setting the stage for a coordinated effort to “accelerate the development of treatments that would prevent, halt or reverse the course of Alzheimer’s” and “improve the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and coordination of the care and treatment of citizens with Alzheimer’s.”
The plan is part of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, or NAPA, that was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress late in 2010. It will create a federal advisory panel to devise a national strategy for the care, support and treatment needs of the more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. It will also consider the needs of the even greater number of caregivers and family members touched by the disease.
Like the earlier war on cancer and government efforts to coordinate research and funding for diseases like AIDS, this is the first time there has been a focused national campaign for Alzheimer’s disease.
The advisory panel will involve federal agencies that deal with health and aging issues. Researchers, doctors and other health care providers, scientific experts and people caring for those with Alzheimer’s will be involved in developing the plan.
The plan will work to coordinate localized research efforts to find effective drugs and treatments for Alzheimer’s. It will also aim to improve methods for diagnosing the disease at early stages, before brain damage has become extensive and therapies to delay symptoms may be most effective. In addition, annual reviews will work to determine the most effective government-financed programs involving research, treatment, home care and nursing homes.
The law doesn’t authorize funds for research for finding a cure or for caregiver services. But legislators expect that increased funding for Alzheimer’s will be a recommendation of the panel. Currently, lawmakers point out, the government spends one penny on Alzheimer’s research for every dollar it spends on caring for patients with the disease.
The cost of Alzheimer’s for Medicare and Medicaid is now about $170 billion a year. As the population ages and the number of Alzheimer’s cases grows, the cost is expected to reach $800 billion by 2050 unless effective treatments or a cure are found.
The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation continues to fund vital research into the causes of Alzheimer’s in the search for a cure. To learn more or make a donation, visit https://www.alzinfo.org/donate.