Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Chris Smith (R-N.J.), House co-Chairmen of the Bipartisan, Bicameral Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, announced the introduction of H.R 1897, the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act of 2011. Reps. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.) are co-sponsors of the bill.
The Breakthrough Act would increase the federal government's commitment to Alzheimer's research by requiring the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a strategic plan to expedite therapeutic outcomes for those with or at risk of Alzheimer's disease and coordinate Alzheimer's research within the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health and across all Centers and Institutes of the NIH. The bill would also provide for public-partnerships to be made available to encourage cooperation with public and private research institutions, institutions of higher learning, biotechnology companies and pharmaceutical companies and others in order to fast-track Alzheimer's research and treatment development.
"The Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act continues our war against this dreaded, fatal disease, which afflicts well over 5 million Americans--nearly half of those over 85, one in eight over 65, and over 200,000 younger individuals who suffer from early onset disease," said Smith. "Alzheimer's is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and is the only one of the top ten causes of death without an identified way to prevent, cure, or even to slow the progress of the disease. All we can do is attempt to treat some of the symptoms."
"Research is medicine's field of dreams and the Breakthrough Act will help fast-track research into the emerging science, knowledge gaps, and priorities that will bring the breakthroughs we need in the fight for a cure for Alzheimer's," said Rep. Markey. "As millions of baby-boomers age and retire, Alzheimer's is becoming a national pandemic, threatening to uproot our Medicare and Medicaid systems. Now more than ever, we need to accelerate the breakthroughs in the causes, treatment and prevention of this disease and reduce the emotional and financial burden of Alzheimer's on families and federally-funded programs. I look forward to working with my colleagues to forward this legislation."
Smith said the disease will take a growing toll on both patients and their families, as well as the U.S. health care system.
"In addition to the crushing costs to our nation's health care system, nearly 15 million caregivers, provide approximately 17 billion hours of unpaid care to family members and friends with Alzheimer's, an unbelievably huge drain on the time and the resources of families -- as those affected families know only too well. Alzheimer's also often takes a large toll on the physical and emotional health of caregivers," Smith said.
"We are hopeful and confident that the Breakthrough Act will accelerate the development of methods for earlier diagnosis and effective treatments that will slow, stop, or reverse the disease. Without major breakthroughs, the current trajectory of Alzheimer's disease over the next few decades threatens unparalleled tragedy and threatens to overwhelm society's ability to cope. We need to win the war against Alzheimer's disease," Smith said.
The Alzheimer's Association has endorsed the bill.
"More and more Americans recognize that Alzheimer's is a very serious disease," said Robert Egge, the Alzheimer's Association vice president of public policy. "What we all have to understand now is not just the severity of Alzheimer's, but also the importance of breakthrough research and the urgency of finding a cure. We have a very narrow window of time to correct the nation's chronic underinvestment in Alzheimer's research. The need to commit to Alzheimer's research is greater than ever before. The Alzheimer's Association applauds Representatives Smith and Markey for offering legislation grounded in their clear understanding that a world without Alzheimer's is only possible with a strategic, well-funded research agenda that gets us to better, effective treatments and interventions."
Reps. Smith and Markey are House authors of the National Alzheimer's Project Act. One of the most significant victories in the fight against Alzheimer's disease in the past three decades, N.A.P.A. provides strategic planning and coordination for the fight against Alzheimer's disease across the federal government.
Reps. Markey, Smith and Burgess, along with Representative Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) recently introduced H.R. 1386, the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (H.O.P.E.) for Alzheimer's Act. The H.O.P.E Act would provide Medicare coverage for comprehensive diagnoses of Alzheimer's disease and help improve care and reduce costs by providing information and resources to newly diagnosed patients and their families. Companion legislation, S. 738, has also been introduced in the Senate by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).