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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 28, 2011


House-passed funding cuts to National Institutes of Health ignore long-term fiscal impact of Alzheimer’s costs for Medicare, Medicaid and America’s families

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the U.S. Senate debates a spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year, nearly 400 Alzheimer’s researchers and service providers from across the country sent a letter today urging Senators to defend maintenance of FY2011 funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at FY2010 funding levels or better.

Pointing to the already massive costs of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, which will only continue to accelerate as baby boomers turn 65, the letter highlights the fiscal wisdom of NIH investments aimed at preventing or curing a disease that threatens to bankrupt our healthcare system.

“Alzheimer’s is a cancer-sized problem requiring a cancer-sized response,” said Dr. Stanley Prusiner, Nobel Laureate, recent recipient of the National Medal of Science and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. “Yet, to date, the Alzheimer’s field is grossly underfunded, at a level of less than ten percent that of cancer and the level of meritorious peer-reviewed grants is at an all time low.”

As Congress addresses the deficit, the letter signatories also emphasize that shrinking already minimal support for research on Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related disorders at a time when our population is aging will only increase ballooning Medicare and Medicaid costs. Currently, Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cost three times as much as those without Alzheimer’s disease; and for Medicaid, the costs of an Alzheimer’s beneficiary are nine times that of a non-Alzheimer’s beneficiary.

“If we do not invest today in biomedical innovation for major chronic diseases that affect older Americans, such as Alzheimer's disease, we will bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid in the years to come,” said George Vradenburg, chairman and co-founder of USAgainst Alzheimer’s. “This is a reality our nation simply cannot afford and cannot accept. Without striving for a cure for Alzheimer’s, we are accepting the fact that we will be a nation in the nursing home business—the iron-lung-and-leg-braces-business of the 21 st century.”

Last year, Alzheimer’s disease costs were estimated at $172 billion, yet the federal investment at the NIH in Alzheimer’s disease research was less than one percent of that amount. With an estimated 5.1 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and the incidence expected to increase drastically over the coming decades, the burden of the costly disease will fall on the shoulders of American families.

“Failing to support promising research for a cure to this devastating disease is morally indefensible, especially as millions of American families are already struggling to care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Eric J. Hall, president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. “The time for investment in NIH research is now.”

Cuts to NIH funding are also putting at risk the global competitive advantage the United States has traditionally enjoyed in bio-medical research.

“The best places to start new careers in Alzheimer’s research are no longer in the United States because the NIH is inadequately supported by the Federal budget," said Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health in New York. "The Federal government must adequately invest in Alzheimer’s research or lose a global advantage it has enjoyed for fifty years. Promising leads for preventing Alzheimer's in the aging Boomer population are dying on the vine. Sadly, I see no prospects for improvement.”

The letter was organized by USAgainst Alzheimer’s and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, two conveners of Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease (LEAD), a coalition of Alzheimer’s-serving organizations committed to increasing America’s commitment to stop Alzheimer’s disease. Full text of the letter is available here:

Contact: Carol Steinberg
Phone: 866-AFA-8484

Alzheimer's Foundation of America  866.232.8484