PRYOR, OK — Dear Editor,
Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be treated, prevented or even slowed. Killing more people each year than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined, costing more than heart disease or cancer, Alzheimer’s is now the single most expensive disease in America, responsible for 203 billion dollars every year, and growing.
Twenty million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s – 5 million diagnosed with it (74,000 in Oklahoma) plus 15 million caregiving for them (214,000 in Oklahoma). With aging baby boomers, these numbers are skyrocketing at a rate rarely seen with a chronic disease. We struggle with a funding model that cannot be sustained: For every $100 spent on Alzheimer’s research, America spends $27,000 on Alzheimer’s care.
Advancements are being made, including passage three years ago of the National Alzheimer’s Plan with the objective of effectively treating and preventing Alzheimer’s by 2025. Two months ago was the first-ever G8 Dementia Summit where leaders from the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia committed to a 2025 goal very similar to America’s National Alzheimer’s Plan, and agreed to significantly increase funding for dementia research to reach that goal. Two weeks ago, the newly formed Accelerating Medicines Partnership was launched with the federal government, industry and nonprofits committed to increasing new Alzheimer’s therapies and diagnostic tools by reducing time and cost to develop them. The past year has seen 58 percent growth in TrialMatch®, the Alzheimer’s Association’s free matching service connecting individuals with current clinical studies.
And the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed last month by both houses of Congress included a record-breaking $122 million in additional Alzheimer’s funding, with $100 million for research through the National Institute on Aging and $22 million to support education, outreach and caregiver support. Bringing the total NIA Alzheimer’s research funding to approximately $600 million, it is still far from the $2 billion that research experts identify as the tipping point for significant breakthrough, but we enthusiastically celebrate this important progress.
The Oklahoma Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association appreciates the support of Congressman Cole, Congressman Lucas and Congressman Bridenstine. Their membership in the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s demonstrates a leadership commitment to solving the Alzheimer’s crisis.
Alzheimer’s will be a legacy of the baby boomers. Either we choose to do something, or choose not to and allow its cost to bankrupt our nation and its family toll to create a social burden we cannot bear. I am among the many who choose to do something. In April I will be joining other Oklahoma colleagues and hundreds of other Alzheimer’s Association Advocates from every state as we visit Washington, D.C., policy-makers for serious discussions about escalating support for Alzheimer’s.
You can help those living with Alzheimer’s disease by directing their caregivers and families to the vast array of free services offered by the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org or 1-800-272-3900 or 918-392-5000. Become an Alzheimer’s Advocate at http://www.alz.org/join_the_cause_advocacy.asp to stay informed of research advances and legislative issues. Consider volunteering for TrialMatch® at www.alz.org/trialmatch regardless of your health situation.