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Obama administration devotes $156M to fight Alzheimer's disease

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will invest $156 million over two years to fight Alzheimer’s disease and its ripple effects.

The administration is making $50 million immediately available for Alzheimer’s research and is including $80 million in its fiscal year 2013 budget – a boost toward Alzheimer’s research that the Department of Health and Human Services says is over 25 percent more than the current annual Alzheimer’s research funding.

Additionally, $26 million will go toward caregiver support, provider education, public awareness and improvements in data infrastructure.

“(Tuesday’s) announcement reflects this administration’s commitment to confronting Alzheimer’s, a disease that takes a devastating toll on millions of Americans,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “We can’t wait to act; reducing the burden of Alzheimer’s disease on patients and their families is an urgent national priority.”

The Alzheimer’s Association in a report released last year, estimated that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and that the number of those with the disease will increase to 13.2 million by 2050 with an estimated price tag of $1.1 trillion.

The administration’s financial support comes a month after President Barack Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Act, which calls for the creation and implementation of a national plan to attack the disease. An advisory council of more than two dozen members are drafting a national plan, due to be delivered to HHS this spring, with an eye toward tackling Alzheimer’s on multiple fronts, including research, education and training of professional and non-professional caregivers, public awareness and support for unpaid caregivers, who the Alzheimer’s Association estimates saved the country $202 billion in 2010 through their unpaid care.

“The administration’s efforts to carve out funds for Alzheimer’s disease despite the challenging fiscal environment signals its ongoing commitment to this devastating disease, and helps pave the way for scientific discoveries that can potentially change lives and save lives,” said Eric Hall, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s president and CEO in a statement. Hall serves as a member of the national plan’s advisory council.

“We’re racing against the clock to advance a solution to this crisis from both cure and care standpoints,” Hall added. “Our aging population can’t wait any longer. It is imperative that we continue to focus on the bigger picture and move toward our goal to defeat Alzheimer’s disease and provide vital support to families. This type of investment is critical so that it doesn’t cost the government, as well as families, more in the long run.”

Follow HFN associate editor Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.

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