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Taking Action on Alzheimer’s: We Can’t Wait

February 7, 2012
Washington, D.C.

Thank you all for being here.

Alzheimer’s disease has quickly become one of our nation’s most critical health challenges.  Almost everyone knows someone who has lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s. We have all witnessed the heartbreak and anguish the disease leaves in its wake. 

As many as 5.1 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. And that number is quickly growing. As the US population ages, the number of people with this terrible disease could double or more by 2050.

In addition to causing devastating pain and loss, Alzheimer’s also carries a steep economic price. Unless researchers find effective strategies for treatment or prevention, the annual health care costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease are projected to rise dramatically in the decades to come. 

We cannot wait to confront the growing threat that Alzheimer’s disease poses to American families and our nation as a whole. The time for bold action on the growing public health challenge posed by Alzheimer’s is now.

Today the Obama Administration is announcing a commitment of $156 million over the next two years to combat Alzheimer’s disease. The first $50 million will be made immediately available to the National Institutes of Health for research to identify effective treatments, delay of disease progression, and ultimately, even prevention of Alzheimer’s altogether.

In addition, the Fiscal Year 2013 budget that will be released next week will include $80 million in new Alzheimer’s research funding.  Together, the fiscal years 2012 and 2013 investments total $130 million in new Alzheimer’s research funding over two years – more than a 25 percent increase over the current annual Alzheimer’s research investment.

Recognizing the urgency of this issue, this initiative also includes $26 million to support education to improve the public’s understanding of the disease, outreach to health care providers so they have the best available information about diagnosis, treatment and support for those with the disease, and expanded support for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers in the community.

These are areas that the experts have identified as critical to address in the coming years as we care for those struck with the disease.

This initiative also recognizes that the impact of this disease reaches far and touches many. We know that families are at the center of caring for those with this disease.  And being a family caregiver is difficult, stressful work. Sons and daughters, spouses and siblings do this hard work out of love and commitment.  We want to make sure that those who are helping to care for our most vulnerable citizens have the support they need to maintain their own health and well-being too.

These investments build on the president’s commitment to fighting Alzheimer’s.

In January 2011, Congress passed and President Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project Act, historic legislation which calls for an aggressive and coordinated national Alzheimer’s disease plan. 

The law also establishes an Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services which brings together some of the Nation's foremost experts on Alzheimer's disease. Their charge includes building public-private partnerships in support of a truly national plan to combat the disease.

The preliminary framework for the plan identifies the key goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.

This announcement is the latest step from this Administration to make it clear that we can’t wait to take action on this debilitating disease.

We can’t delay our work to find treatments and a cure.  Nor can we delay our work to provide critical support to Americans struck by the disease and those who care for them every day.

Now I’d like to turn things over to Dr. Francis Collins.

As Director of the National Institutes of Health, he oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, from basic to clinical research. And with today’s announcement, we turn again to NIH for leadership in our work to combat Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Collins…