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Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Holds Hearing on Alzheimer's Disease

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Chairman, I'll be brief. You have an outstanding group of panelists this morning, and let me thank you for holding the hearing and your advocacy for some of these issues that are so critically important.

I'm here today as a member of the subcommittee. I'm also here as the chairman of the special committee on aging in the Senate, and I'm the adult child of aging parents. And I feel very fortunate that I've not had to face Alzheimer's directly, but indirectly. Certainly, with other members of my family, with friends and associates, it is very real. And all that you said, Mr. Chairman, is certainly true.

Alzheimer's Disease can exhaust the human resources, cause physical and emotional hardships for caregivers and is a tremendous financial burden on families and the tragic story goes on and on. That's why we're here today, to take the testimony of these experts and to see what we can do to continue to add to the research that is going on. Funding for biomedical research, for all diseases, is a high priority and this chairman has made it his priority. And Mr. Chairman, I thank you for doing so, because it is making a difference. And all of these advocates who are here today are making a difference, along with that research.

New discoveries, obviously, return values to the patient and their families. And the story goes on and on. This is a challenge that we are facing. It is a challenge that we will meet. It is a crisis in our community that we hope to solve with the necessary research and work.

So thank you very much this morning, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to the testimony of these experts.


Well, to all of you, thank you very much. You bring us valuable information and you make the case so dramatically well, and that is important for all of us to understand.

Dr. Albert, talk to me about the kind of teaming you see that needs to come about that does not necessarily come about in an individualized community of interests. How do you accomplish that, and what do you expect it to yield?


I think we already have examples of how to accomplish it, because in some respects the Alzheimer's—the National Institute on Aging has established the infrastructure for this. So, for example, for clinical trials there's a large infrastructure that involves 20-30 centers around the country that are collaborating on an individual clinical trial. It involves neurologists, psychiatrists, statisticians, neuropsychologists, and what makes it so costly is that it's very difficult to work across disciplines, you have to learn the language of the other person and of course, just meeting and coordinating everything is very time-consuming and costly. It's clear that it's paying off, because the little that we do know about how to more effectively treat Alzheimer's Disease comes from such clinical trials where there is this kind of integration.

And that's the model that we're hoping for for the imaging initiative that both Dr. Hodes and I mentioned, whereby radiologists and neurologists and statisticians and experts in just image acquisition would all work together and would share a common database, collect information, collaboratively, and then analyze it collaboratively. The unique aspect of that is that the plan is to have it be funded both jointly by industry and government, and so the pharmaceutical companies are also involved in helping plan it, so that they can get the kind of data that they think they most clearly need in order to evaluate drugs.

CRAIG (?):

That only comes with increased dollars, or can you, or are you now doing that?

It absolutely requires increased dollars. The estimated cost for the imaging initiative alone is $60m, and my guess is that that's an underestimate. Because we're talking about 20-30 centers around the country, we're talking about acquiring sophisticated imaging data on a large number of people, figuring out how to do it in a standardized way, evaluating it collaboratively across sites, so it's going to be very costly.

Thank you.

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