American legislators recently approved the 2016 fiscal year budget, and Congress has agreed to increase government funding on research for Alzheimer's disease by 50 percent in the coming year.
According to the Washington Post, a budget including a $350 million increase in spending on Alzheimer's research during 2016 has been approved, though that number is still dwarfed by research on other diseases. This is a major win for health care advocates, but there is still much work to be done.
A Major Victory
The Alzheimer's Association celebrated the announcement of the increased spending, the largest such jump in history. The association had been a major player in advocating for more spending.
President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association Harry Johns said of the increase, "Our effort was realized with today's historic announcement. Congressional champions from both sides of the aisle have heard the appeals from leading scientists convened by the Alzheimer's Association and the hundreds of thousands of advocates we have led. They have answered with a bold, strategic decision to invest in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, which is a necessary next step in our country's journey to end this epidemic."
According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are currently 5.3 million Americans are living with the disease, and Alzheimer's care can be incredibly burdensome on family members and caregivers. There are some drugs and medications available, but currently no cure exists. According to the Alzheimer's Association, of the top ten causes of death in the U.S., it is the only form that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
An increase in research money from the federal government is great news for Americans who understand how difficult Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia can be, but spending will have to continue to rise to effectively mitigate the growing costs associated with the disease.
The Alzheimer's Association reported that currently $226 billion dollars is spent on treating Americans with Alzheimer's and at its present rate that number could rise to $1.1 trillion by the year 2050. Improving research is important because of the enormous costs associated with the disease. It was also reported that a new treatment that could delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by five years would save $345 billion over 10 years in Medicare expenses alone.
According to the Washington Post, $2 billion dollars in annual funding would be necessary to really bring Alzheimer's under control, a goal previously set by the National Institutes of Health. If the research budget increases by $350 million each year, that mark could be met by 2020, five years ahead of schedule.
The Alzheimer's Association reported that by 2025, the number of senior citizens suffering from the disease could jump nearly 40 percent to 7.1 million. Without increasing the amount spent on research, the costs brought on by Alzheimer's will only continue to climb.
Between 2014 and 2015, there was just a $25 million budget increase in the amount spent on Alzheimer's research. The NIH was allocated $586 million in the 2015 fiscal year. That number will jump by $350 million in 2016, but that amount is still trumped by the amount of money spent researching other diseases.
The government sets aside $1.6 billion in research money for combating heart disease every year in the U.S., and HIV/AIDS receives $3 billion in annual research dollars.
The Census Bureau reported that the U.S. has an aging population, which means that there will be increased stress on caregivers and assisted living facilities in the coming years. Finding ways to mitigate, reverse or even cure Alzheimer's disease is critical not just for those currently living with the illness, but for future generations who will have to contend with the condition as well.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living