As the country’s population ages, Alzheimer’s disease is becoming a greater concern for Americans. And the National Institutes of Health has decided to emphasize the research community’s focus on the disease with an additional $50 million of spending on Alzheimer’s research, on top of the $450 million it currently allotts annually. Simultaneously, President Obama is asking Congress to contribute $80 million for Alzheimer’s research in 2013.
Alzheimer’s has already taken a devastating toll on the country; over 5 million people have the disease or a related dementia, and this number is expected to at least double by 2050. At that time, the projected cost of Alzheimer’s disease, including paying for medical and nursing home care, will be $1 trillion.
“This is a devastating disease,” says ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, “and right now there really isn’t anything available to help those who suffer from it. The evidence is close to zero to suggest that any of the available treatments work. We can’t expect any big changes immediately, but Alzheimer’s research is certainly a priority.”
Unfortunately, however, ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom points out that $50 million of funding is not likely to make much of a difference. “This amount is a drop in the bucket, “ he says. “It sounds like it’s being offered mostly for show.” In fact, some government advisers have suggested that an investment closer to $2 billion is necessary to make an actual impact on the research on this disease. Dr. Bloom, too, feels that the recent funding increase is far from enough. “Drug companies put many times this amount into Alzheimer’s research and drug development,” he says, “and they still have little to show for it.”