The pain and helplessness of those suffering from the ravages of Alzheimer's disease (AD)--a fatal, degenerative condition for which there is currently no cure nor any effective treatment-- is the basis for a bipartisan bill unveiled in the House of Representatives today by U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) The bill, HRes. 489, calls on the U.S. to both engage in and lead a coordinated, international effort to advance work for the treatment, prevention and perhaps even a cure for Alzheimer's disease as well as other forms of dementia.
"Without a medical break though, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's is expected to increase by 40 percent by 2025 and increase by 2.5 times to over 13 million by 2050," saidCongressman Smith, sponsor of HRes. 489 and the co-chair of the Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease. "We continue to push legislative and policy initiatives to promote medical research and treatment for AD patients--and better support their caregivers. The Alzheimer's crisis will soon be skyrocketing and now is the time to plan and take action." Smith co-authored the bipartisan National Alzheimer's Project Act or NAPA, which passed the House in 2010 and was enacted in 2011 to establish the goal of preventing and successfully treating Alzheimer's disease by 2025 in the United States.
"While the threat of Alzheimer's is real--and growing--not a week goes by without us learning about new research or technologies to help us in this global fight. I am convinced that we are going to make breakthroughs in Alzheimer's for the 44 million worldwide, including five million Americans, that suffer from the disease, but we have to be prepared to support the investment,"Congressman Fattah said."The U.S. is in a position to incite action and we must not only lead, but engage our partners around the world. This legislation and the creation of a Global Alzheimer's Fund would be the most significant step to date in our response to Alzheimer's and its growing toll on our aging population and fiscal health."
Congressmen Fattah and Smith have worked together on global health initiatives in the past, including the creation of the Safe Blood Initiative in 2006, cleaning the blood supply and working to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.
HRes. 489 calls on the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enter into negotiations with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a Global Alzheimer's and Dementia Action Plan focused on areas such as:
Research, including clinical research and clinical trials, and regulatory issues
Supportive services for patients and for caregivers
Prevention and health promotion
Public awareness and education
The resolution is newly endorsed by the Alzheimer's Association: "The Alzheimer's Association proudly endorses your most recent Alzheimer's resolution, H. Res. 489, which expresses the sense of Congress to facilitate and promote a robust response to the global crisis of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias."
HRes. 489 also calls on the U.S. government to encourage and facilitate partnerships with the private sector, such as the current partnership between the National Institutes of Health and 10 pharmaceutical companies to identify new approaches to treat Alzheimer's. It states that the HHS Secretary along with the Secretary of the Treasury should develop the foundation for a Global Alzheimer's Fund that would provide resources to support implementation of specific strategies to address AD.
The bill comes in response to aseries of hearings Smith has been chairing in the subcommittee on global health. It is similar to the bipartisan effort in 2010 led by Smith and then-Congressman, now Senator, Ed Markey (D-MA) who teamed up to write the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA), HR 4689. That bill led to enactment of NAPA (PL 111-375), which established the goal of preventing and successfully treating Alzheimer's disease by 2025 in the United States. 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. It required the development of the national plan to employ and coordinate government and private sector research and improve care and support services. The law also created an Advisory Committee of private and federal experts to work with the HHS Secretary to comprehensively assess and address Alzheimer's research, institutional services and home and community-based care.
Congressman Fattah is the architect ofthe Fattah Neuroscience Initiative (FNI), an innovative, non-incremental policy initiative designed to make major progress in understanding the human brain by intensifying, in a collaborative fashion, federal research efforts across brain disease, disorder, injury, cognition and development. Created in 2011, the initiative aims to coordinate Federal research across agencies and draw upon public-private partnerships and the world of academia. FNI has focused on fostering cooperation and collaboration, both within the United States and abroad, to expand the scope of support, tools, and funding dedicated to fighting brain diseases including stroke, autism, Alzheimer's, and other dementias.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States with a 68 percent increase in deaths caused by Alzheimer's in the last ten years alone. Over 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's with the number of family members and caregivers affected reaching more than triple that amount. In New Jersey, an estimated 150,000 Garden State residents suffered from this form of dementia in 2010, and that number is expected to increase to 160,000 in 2020 and 170,000 by 2025.
The U.S. is not alone is facing this looming healthcare threat. In December 2013, the Group of 8 (G8) nations--the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Japan--held its first ever Dementia Summit in London and it appears the nations are coalescing around the U.S. plan stemming from NAPA. The G8 examined the various national action plans aimed at the growing international crisis of AD and other forms of dementia. Smith chairedhearings leading up to and following the G-8 Summit.
The WHO and Alzheimer's Disease International 2012 Dementia Report estimates that there were 35.6 million people with dementia (including AD) worldwide in 2010. This number is projected to nearly double every 20 years, increasing to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050. Beyond the human suffering, the global cost of this condition totaled $604 billion in 2010, according to Alzheimer's Disease International.
"The very fact that the G8 held a summit on dementia three months ago provides hope that a new international initiative will be sustained on the order of the global fight against HIV/AIDS--a coordinated global effort which has saved lives,"Smith said. "And as with the fight against HIV/AIDS, the world's leading economies must now do more than meet occasionally to really tackle the Alzheimer's challenge. In fact, the US cannot afford to have a robust domestic program to fight this condition and find that our international efforts are undermined by the failure of other donors to play their proper role in this effort."
To help build care delivery capacity, the legislation pushes the G8 nations to work with the G20, G77 and other forums including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to investigate systems to monitor and provide care to persons with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia in developing countries.