Supporters of a big funding increase for research into Alzheimer's disease make a compelling case, no matter whether their listeners are moved by compassion or fiscal responsibility.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, the Kansas Republican, is among those pushing for Congress to double funding for this purpose to about $1 billion annually — one-sixth of what is spent on cancer research and one-third of spending on HIV/AIDS.
This sounds like a lot of money until you weigh projections that by 2050, unless we experience advances in research, nearly 14 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer’s at a cost of more than $1 trillion annually.
Already, a new scientific study puts deaths from the disease at more than 500,000 each year. If confirmed by the government, this would make Alzheimer’s the third most deadly disease in this country after heart disease and cancer.
Rather than play interest groups against each other, Sen. Moran praises the other investments as great examples of how research spending can save lives and money. But he notes that currently for every $270 that Medicare and Medicaid spend caring for people with Alzheimer’s, the government spends just $1 on Alzheimer’s research.
Further, statistics from the National Institute on Aging show that without a commitment to increased funding, a goal of stopping Alzheimer’s within the next 15 years will be missed and the projected annual death toll will soar to more than a million.
Advocates note the research community believes the disease can be stopped with adequate funding. The race is on to understand the underlying causes of the disease and to devise strategies that might delay the onset.
One study cited by Sen. Moran found that a five-year delay in average onset would save $447 billion annually by 2050. Not to mention the heartache of countless families.
We don’t know where the research money should come from, but millions of senior adults and their family members — including thousands here in the Midland Empire — recognize this funding should be a public health priority.