President Barack Obama signed legislation for the largest increase ever for federal Alzheimer’s disease research. The $350 million increase, included in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill, brings the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total for Alzheimer’s research to nearly $1 billion per year.
"On behalf of over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's and their over 15 million caregivers, this funding cannot come a moment too soon," says Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association in a prepared statement. "Congress has answered our call and the voice of our hundreds of thousands of advocates with a bold, strategic investment that is a necessary next step in our country's journey to end the Alzheimer epidemic."
Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the new chairman of the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee, is one of the Congressional leaders who spearheaded the bipartisan effort. Cole told Stat News medical research funding is a rare goal that bypasses contentious debates and represents a large cost savings to the federal government if a cure can be found.
"On a cost-reward basis, is it worth it? Yeah, it really is," Cole says. "I mean, if anything, we should be doing more than we proposed in our bill. But I think you’ve got to build capacity over time and go at this step by step."
The NIH released a detailed proposal that outlined the milestones that could be achieved with a $323 million funding increase. A report from the Alzheimer’s Association estimated savings of $220 billion in the first five years if an effective treatment can be found with 60 percent going to Medicare and Medicaid.
Alzheimer’s disease is the only top 10 cause of death in the nation that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.