A draft plan released this week that maps out a national, comprehensive plan to address Alzheimer’s, a disease that afflicts millions of Americans, lays out a path for development of more effective and timely treatments, earlier diagnoses, and improved support services for patients and their caregivers, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease.
"Cases of this dreaded disease are on the rise," said Smith. “The toll of human suffering is tremendous on both patients and their families. A national plan is absolutely essential to waging an effective war on Alzheimer’s to prevent and successfully treat the disease by 2025. We have an obligation to work even harder and address this crisis more efficiently and effectively or suffering will increase and costs of treatment and care will continue to skyrocket, taking a financial toll on the country, as well.”
A disease characterized by steadily deteriorating loss of thinking, reasoning and memory skills, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia affecting more than 5.4 million people in the United States, including more than 150,000 people in New Jersey. By 2050, it is estimated that nearly 16 million Americans, and a staggering 115 million people worldwide, will have AD.
Today Alzheimer’s is the sixth largest cause of death in the United States and the only one in the top 10 still without a means to prevent, slow the progression, or cure the disease. In addition to the suffering patients, Alzheimer’s disease devastates millions more, especially family members who often provide patient care. Some experts estimate that Alzheimer’s currently costs Americans over $183 billion annually in direct costs and could cost over $1 trillion annually by 2050.
Smith was the Republican lead on the House version (Markey-Smith) of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act or NAPA (H.R. 4689/S.3036) which was signed into law in 2011 (PL 111-375). The new law required development of a national, coordinated plan to overcome Alzheimer’s disease.
To ensure that the National Plan is meaningful and truly reflects the needs of patients and caregivers, input sessions were hosted across the country, including one last year in Smith’s district in Monmouth County. The draft plan released Feb. 22 (Click here to read the draft plan) reflects efforts of the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services – also created by NAPA – as well as advocates across the country. The draft plan is now open for public comment until March 30, 2012. Comments can be submitted to Helen Lamont at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Helen.Lamont@hhs.gov).
“I encourage all stakeholders - families, medical professionals, other caregivers, researchers and public policy makers - in the general public, government, academia, and industry to seriously consider and comment on the draft national plan,” said Smith. “Broad engagement of stakeholders is critical to ensure that the National Plan to be released this spring embodies the best possible strategies and offers real hope for overcoming this disease.”
Also pending before this Congress are other bills that compliment the National Plan to address Alzheimer’s and that 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 joined Congressman Edward J. Markey (MA-07), his co-chair on the Alzheimer’s Caucus, 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, early this month, 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.