Obama Administration Unveils Plan To Combat Alzheimer's Disease

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On Tuesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the Obama administration's plan to combat Alzheimer's disease, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The plan, which Sebelius unveiled at a national meeting on Alzheimer's research at NIH, includes an ambitious goal of finding an effective way to treat and prevent the disease by 2025 (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/15).

The announcement comes as experts say the U.S. is facing an Alzheimer's epidemic, in which the number of U.S. residents with the disease is expected to increase from five million to more than 13 million by 2050 (Fox, National Journal, 5/14). Further, the annual cost of Alzheimer's to the U.S. could increase from $200 billion in 2012 to more than $1 trillion by 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association (Neergaard, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/14).

Details of the Plan

In an earlier draft of the plan, HHS said it will seek to improve care, expand support for caregivers and develop methods to track progress, National Journal reports (National Journal, 5/14). Further, the plan includes the development of new training plans for physicians and a public information campaign.

The plan also includes the launch of two clinical trials. One study will examine whether a treatment targeting amyloid -- a protein thought to cause Alzheimer's -- could prevent the disease in people who are genetically predisposed.

The second study will test whether an insulin nasal spray can help restore memory in patients with Alzheimer's, which is an approach that showed promising results in a small study last year (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 5/15).

In addition, the federal government on Tuesday launched a new website that provides families and caregivers with information on dementia and where to receive help in caring for individuals with Alzheimer's (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/15).

Funding for the new plan will come from the $50 million the administration earmarked for the national Alzheimer's plan last year. Another $100 million has been set aside for 2013, including $80 million for research, $4.2 million for public awareness, $4 million for provider education, $10.5 million in caregiver support and $1.3 million for improvements in data collection.

Comments

In a statement, Sebelius said, "These actions are the cornerstones of an historic effort to fight Alzheimer's disease," adding, "This is a national plan -- not a federal one -- because reducing the burden of Alzheimer's will require the active engagement of both the public and private sectors."

Don Moulds, principal deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, acknowledged that work already is under way to find a treatment for Alzheimer's. However, he said that a national plan that sets out specific targets and timelines will help focus the government's efforts. "It's a huge initiative and a very ambitious step in the right direction," he said (Reuters, 5/15).


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