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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Congress Passes $122 Million Increase in Alzheimer's Funding

As part of the 2014 bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress on Jan. 13, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) received a $122 million boost in funding for research, education, outreach, and caregiver support. The proposed funding increases for AD were notable at a time when funding for other “sequestered” programs was not restored. The bill will be forwarded to President Obama for his signature.

The new funds would include a $100 million increase for the National Institute on Aging for Alzheimer’s research, which would be added to what the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates will be $484 million in Alzheimer’s research funding across NIH in fiscal year 2013, according to a press statement from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Last month, funding for research and global Alzheimer’s disease (AD) initiatives took center stage at the G8 Dementia Summit, when UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the Medical Research Council of Great Britain would spend 150 million pounds ($245 million) more on clinical and genomics research in addition to its other commitments to AD funding. AD was notably the first disorder to be included as an agenda item by the G8 meeting since the 2005 meeting focused on HIV and AIDS. [The G8 summit includes representatives from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom.]

“By the middle of this century, if nothing is done, we’ll have three times the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease — and that by itself could bankrupt the health care system,” said Ronald C. Petersen, MD, PhD, the Cadieux director of the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging in Rochester, MN, who attended the summit.“We cannot afford to say we’ll increase funding for research when we have the luxury to do so. The cost to individuals, families, and societies is catastrophic now, so it’s either pay now or pay later.”

The fight against Alzheimer’s already has produced cooperation among several nations, according to Michael W. Weiner, MD, principal Investigator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). “We already have the World wide Wide ADNI,” said Dr. Weiner, director of the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disease and a professor of medicine, radiology, psychiatry, and neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. “It involves ADNI in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, and Brazil. The Chinese are talking about joining too. We meet every year at the Alzheimer’s International Congress, and have teleconferences four times a year. There’s lots of interaction, lots of sharing of data.”

ADNI, launched in 2003, is a public-private partnership created and managed by the Alzheimer’s Association that develops biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. Worldwide World Wide ADNI also has created uniform protocols so that participants will produce the same test results, which are freely shared among researchers.

Dr. Weiner agreed that ADNI provides an obvious model of cooperation for G8 member nations, but he believes the success of the project depends largely on sufficient funding.

“I think the biggest limitation to developing effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is money,” he said. “There’s no lack of cooperation among people. There’s a very positive spirit among investigators — a lot of good will and sharing of information. I think if countries in the G8 come forward and provide more funding for Alzheimer’s disease research, that would be fantastic, but I certainly don’t see any signs of increased funding for Alzheimer’s research in the United States.”

Researchers said that the success of the global campaign to conquer Alzheimer’s disease will depend on vast infusions of money.

Read the full story on the G8 Summit and the global plans for Alzheimer’s research and treatment in the Feb. 6 issue of Neurology Today. See Neurology Now's collection of articles on Alzheimer's disease here: