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Obama Administration to Increase Alzheimer's Research Funding

USA TODAY FEB. 7, 2012

The Obama administration is set to announce a plan to spend more than half a billion dollars on Alzheimer's research next year, the Associated Press reports.

The plan is being unveiled as part of President Obama's "We Can't Wait" initiative, and not all the spending will require approval from Congress. The plan calls for the National Institutes of Health to allocate an extra $50 million to Alzheimer's research this year.

The NIH currently spends $450 million a year on Alzheimer's research. In his budget proposal to be released next week, President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $80 million in new money for Alzheimer's research next year.

The move is part of the administration's development of the first National Alzheimer's Plan, a congressionally-ordered strategy that will combine research toward better dementia treatments with steps to help overwhelmed families to better cope today. In addition to biomedical research, the administration said it will propose spending $26 million for other goals of the still-to-be-finalized plan, including caregiver support.

"We can't wait to act," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "Reducing the burden of Alzheimer's disease on patients and their families is an urgent national priority."

Patient advocates long have said the nation's spending on Alzheimer's research is far too little considering the disease's coming toll. At a meeting last month some of the government's Alzheimer's advisers said it could take a research investment of as much as $2 billion a year to make a real impact.

"Our country cannot afford not to make these commitments," Alzheimer's Association President Harry Johns told that meeting.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's or related dementias, and, barring a medical breakthrough, that number is expected to more than double by 2050. Today, medical and nursing home bills for Alzheimer's total about $180 billion a year, a tab expected to reach $1 trillion.