It seems there’s little the nation’s political parties can agree on these days. Indeed some say the country hasn’t been so divided since the War Between the States. But if any topic can build bi-partisan support as we approach the third decade of the new millennium, it’s Alzheimer’s disease. We all agree we hate it; and we all agree it needs to go. Perhaps we’re just looking for something, anything upon which we can agree, or maybe more and more of us see ourselves potentially facing the disease that is projected to destroy the brains of some 14 million Americans by 2050.
Momentum is certainly building around the issue of Alzheimer’s on Capitol Hill as the actions of lawmakers show their acknowledgment that finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease must be accelerated or we may find ourselves with a massive health and economic crisis. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, this month alone, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $401 million increase in its budget, the Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, (Labor-HHS) Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee led by Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) proposed a $425 million increase for Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding at the NIH; and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representative Linda Sánchez (D-CA) called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to prioritize the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed, says the Alzheimer’s Association, and lawmakers are taking out the nation’s checkbook in hopes to solve the health and social economic crisis of this generation. And if the $425 million increase is signed into law, Alzheimer’s and related dementia research funding at the NIH would reach a whopping $2.3 billion.
As lead co-sponsors of the Concentrating on High-Value Alzheimer’s (CHANGE) Act, Capito and Sánchez urged their colleagues in Congress this week to join them in expediting a cure and held panel discussions on how the law will provide solutions to for Alzheimer’s patients, caregivers and families.
A highly-targeted approach to overcome barriers to a faster cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the CHANGE Act is designed to encourage early and accurate assessment, detection and diagnosis; support innovative approaches to relieve caregiver burden; and remove regulatory barriers to and provide the infrastructure for developing and implementing promising treatments.
Participants in the discussions this week on Capitol Hill along with Capito and Sánchez included:
- Greg O’Brien, Alzheimer’s patient and author of On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s
- George Vradenburg, chairman, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2)
- Kristin Davie, president, Alzheimer’s NJ Young Professional Advisory Council
- Ian Kremer, executive director, Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease (LEAD) Coalition
- David Morgan, global impact professor of Translational Science & Molecular Medicine,
Michigan State University
- Peter Fitzgerald, executive vice president of Policy and Strategy, National Pace Association
- Stephanie Monroe, executive director, AfricanAmericansAgainstAlzheimer’s
Working with UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2), lawmakers shared their personal experiences alongside those affected by Alzheimer’s and those who are working to better understand and address the disease.
“Fighting Alzheimer’s is such a personal priority for me, and I’ve seen the devastating impact this disease has on patients, families and caregivers across the country. That’s exactly why I introduced the CHANGE Act,” Capito said. “By helping to improve the detection and early assessment of Alzheimer’s, this bipartisan legislation will not only help those affected by the disease, but it will also bring us one step closer to finding a cure. It’s an important bill that I will continue working with my colleagues and partners like UsAgainstAlzheimer’s to build support for and advance in Congress.”