A strengthened federal effort unveiled this week in Washington will help ongoing efforts to battle a disease that afflicts over five million Americans, a number expected to triple in the decades ahead, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), who co-chairs the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease.
"This is a war against a disease that ravages individuals and takes a terrible toll on their caretakers and family members," said Smith. “Every battle launched against Alzheimer’s brings us closer to better treatments and hopefully preventions and someday a cure. This funding is a much-welcomed and prudent investment, given the expected surge in Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s in the years ahead.”
Health costs for Alzheimer’s currently are draining an estimated $183 billion from the economy, a figure expected to grow to $1.1 trillion in 2050 in today’s dollars. The current costs to Medicare and Medicaid total $130 billion. Smith said the nation cannot afford not to turn the tide on controlling the skyrocketing costs of Alzheimer’s.
The Feb. 7 announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services represents a little over a 25 percent increase in federal resources for Alzheimer’s research over the next two years. This initiative also includes additional support for caregivers in the community, improving provider education and training, and increasing public awareness.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. said, “This new funding will accelerate NIH’s effort to use the power of science to develop new ways of helping people with Alzheimer’s disease and those at risk.”
Smith, with Alzheimer’s Task Force co-chair Ed Markey (MA), also introduced the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), signed into law last year. NAPA coordinates government-wide efforts to prevent and treat the disease and create a national plan for defeating Alzheimer’s. Last August, Smith participated with the Alzheimer's Association Greater New Jersey Chapter at a "listening session" held in Smith’s district in Wall Township, Monmouth County, N.J. to obtain input from constituents on what they thought the first ever national Alzheimer’s Plan should address. The draft of that national plan is expected to be released later this month.
Also pending before this Congress are other bills Smith is working to see passed. Smith authored the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act (H.R.1897), which focuses on identifying research that may lead to breakthroughs. Smith also joined Congressman Markey in introducing the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (H.O.P.E.) Act (H.R. 1386) to encourage early Alzheimer’s diagnoses and connect caregivers to information and resources; and, just this week, Smith again joined Markey in introducing the bipartisan Spending Reductions Through Innovations in Therapies (SPRINT) Act (H.R. 3891), which would spur innovation in research and drug development for high-cost, chronic health conditions such as Alzheimer’s through public-private partnerships.
Smith, who also is chairman of the House subcommittee which oversees global health issues, held in June 2011 the first ever congressional hearing examining the global strategies to address Alzheimer’s disease, entitled “Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and Economic Impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease.”