The first-ever comprehensive National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease was released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the culmination of bipartisan work by Cong. Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Cong. Edward J. Markey (MA-07), co-Chairmen of the Congressional Taskforce on Alzheimer's, to create of a national plan to address the devastating disease.
The plan includes the bold national goal of preventing or treating Alzheimer's disease by 2025 and represents an historic commitment by the federal government to tackling a disease that cost $140 billion to care for Alzheimer's patients last year. Smith and Markey are the House authors of the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA), the law which required the creation of a national plan to combat Alzheimer's disease.
"In 2010, when Rep. Smith and I authored the bipartisan National Alzheimer's Project Act, it was goal to compel our government to take inventory of its spending towards Alzheimer's and create a plan to fight the disease that costs so much in lives and dollars," said Markey. "Two years later, we escalated our fight against Alzheimer's disease and raised this issue into the national consciousness with the bold goal of treating Alzheimer's by 2025. Releasing this historic national plan is a strong first step, but now we need to fund it. We have a framework; now we need the financial sheetrock. I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues to help pass legislation that will help bring about a world without Alzheimer's disease."
"It was just 17 months ago that the National Alzheimer's Project Act unanimously passed the House of Representatives -- requiring development of a National Alzheimer's Plan," said Smith. "The release today of that national plan is a great testament to what can be accomplished when members of Congress on both sides of the aisle work together in bipartisanship. Issuance of this plan, developed with nationwide input from families and all types of experts, provides reason for having the first, genuine sense of hope that we will defeat this terrible disease."
Unless progress is made against this disease, by 2050, the U.S. government will spend $600 billion a year out of Medicare and $200 billion a year in Medicaid on Alzheimer's alone. In one generation, the Medicare costs of this one disease will be more than America's entire federal defense budget is now.
To make the National Plan meaningful and reflective the needs of patients and caregivers, input sessions were hosted across the country, including one last year in Smith's district in Monmouth County. (Click here to read the national plan) The plan reflects efforts of the Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services -- also created by NAPA -- as well as advocates across the country. For more information on the national plan to address Alzheimer's disease, visit: www.alzheimers.gov.
Also pending before this Congress are other bills that compliment the National Plan to address Alzheimer's and that Smith is working to see passed. Smith authored the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act (H.R.1897), which focuses on identifying research that may lead to breakthroughs. Smith joined Congressman Edward J. Markey (MA-07), his co-chair on the Alzheimer's Caucus, in introducing the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (H.O.P.E.) Act (H.R. 1386) to encourage early Alzheimer's diagnoses and connect caregivers to information and resources; and, early this month, Smith again joined Markey in introducing the bipartisan Spending Reductions Through Innovations in Therapies (SPRINT) Act (H.R. 3891), which would spur innovation in research and drug development for high-cost, chronic health conditions such as Alzheimer's through public-private partnerships.
A disease characterized by steadily deteriorating loss of thinking, reasoning and memory skills, Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia affecting more than 5.4 million people in the United States, including more than 150,000 people in New Jersey. By 2050, it is estimated that nearly 16 million Americans, and a staggering 115 million people worldwide, will have AD. Today Alzheimer's is the sixth largest cause of death in the United States and the only one in the top 10 still without a means to prevent, slow the progression, or cure the disease. In addition to the suffering patients, Alzheimer's disease devastates millions more, especially family members who often provide patient care. Some experts estimate that Alzheimer's currently costs Americans over $183 billion annually in direct costs and could cost over $1 trillion annually by 2050.