Obama’s healthcare goals have been controversial at best, and although anti-smoking campaigns and other public health and safety awareness drives have been successful, it’s always somewhat dubious when government starts creating grand plans and lofty goals. Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has released an ambitious and wide ranging national plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease.
The plan, known as The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), which Obama signed into law in Feb 2012, includes five goals, such as development of treatment and prevention for Alzheimer’s disease and other associated dementias by 2025.
The announcement today is accompanied by National Institutes of Health (NIH) $50M in additional funding for 2012 to be directed at Alzheimer’s disease; more specifically, at high quality and up to date training for clinicians and a new public information campaign. The campaign is driven, as is often the case, in part by concern that with an aging population and numbers of American patients suffering from the disease expected to rise from the current 5.4 million to 16 million by 2050, burdening the healthcare system with costs project to soar to a trillion dollars.
In addition, President Obama has earmarked an extra $80M for the 2013 budget plan just for Alzeimer’s research in what he describes as a “jump start” to reach the 2025 goal. The provisions include improving public awareness of the disease ($4.2 million), supporting provider education programs ($4.0 million), investment in caregiver support ($10.5 million) and improving data collection ($1.3 million).
Secretary Sebelius announced :
“These actions are the cornerstones of an historic effort to fight Alzheimer’s disease … 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.”
The plans were presented at the Alzheimer’s Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention which was developed with input from experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease issues. Calling for a comprehensive collaboration across federal, state and non-profit organizations drew comments from more than 3,600 people or organizations.
One of the more promising treatments that will be ramped up is the use of a drug that attacks a protein known as amyloid, thought to be a major contributor to the problems Alzheimer’s patients suffer from. Much of the funding will come from Genetech, the drug’s US manufacturer, which additional assistance from National Institutes of Health, as well as the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix.
A second trial will work with insulin inhalers, which appear to have the ability to restore some of the memories lost to the disease. The insulin treatment is particularly important, as Alzheimer’s has been linked to diabetes.
The campaign is not only commendable but carries a certain amount of urgency and financial concern to avoid an epidemic of Alzheimer’s in the future. With several Presidents including Ronald Regan having suffered from the disease in their retirement, perhaps Mr. Obama is also privately hoping to ensure he can avoid their fate.
Written by Rupert Shepherd