Nov 2, 2011


More than 40 of the nation’s leading voices and organizations in Alzheimer’s research, drug discovery and care today announced a series of aggressive and innovative recommendations to transform the current trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease, now slated to kill millions of Americans and to cost the nation over two trillion dollars in the coming decade.

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Howard Fillit
“Alzheimer's is a progressive neurodegenerative disease which is uniformly fatal and for which there are no effective treatments,” said Howard Fillit, MD, who is Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which is a member of LEAD.

“The Obama Administration has a unique opportunity to set the nation on a new course with Alzheimer’s disease. An entire generation of baby boomers will be turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day for the next 19 years, and we have no sustainable long-term answer for them to this disease epidemic. It cannot be emphasized enough that we are in a race against time to stop Alzheimer’s disease before it becomes America’s single largest public health, fiscal and economic threat.”

The recommendations by Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease (LEAD) are directed to the Congressionally-mandated Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services – the committee tasked with advising on the first-ever national action plan to deal with the growing Alzheimer’s disease crisis.

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Alzheimer’s disease currently affects an estimated 5.1 million Americans and, absent disease-modifying treatments, that number is expected to rise exponentially in the coming decades. To significantly advance progress in Alzheimer’s research, care and prevention, experts who prepared the LEAD report propose the following vital recommendations:

· Triple the amount of funding for Alzheimer’s disease research, while reducing the current duplication of research efforts as well as spurring innovation through a new outcomes-oriented research strategy.

· Create incentives to drive investment in new Alzheimer’s disease therapies through enhanced market exclusivity for companies delivering treatments to market, development of large-scale patient registries to reduce the time and cost of recruiting thousands of individuals to clinical trials, and focusing attention on the development of qualified biomarkers to shorten the time needed to assess the effectiveness of new drug candidates.

· Reduce healthcare costs and improve quality of care for people with Alzheimer’s disease by implementing at a national level proven models of caring for individuals with the brain disorder and their caregivers, developing critical assistive tools and services for family caregivers, and adequately reimbursing healthcare professionals for improved high quality care.

· Establish a dedicated fund at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to invest with private investors in new start-up drug discovery companies that are developing innovative treatments and therapies with the best likelihood for reducing Medicare and Medicaid spending on Alzheimer’s disease care.

· Prepare for the explosion in Alzheimer’s cases by building a healthcare workforce skilled in the care of people with the disease and by ensuring that adequate and effective services and support care are accessible to all families coping with the disease.

“The time is now for America to rally the nation behind the challenging but achievable goal of stopping this disease in the next decade,” said Dr. Rudy Tanzi, Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School and Director of Harvard University’s Genetics and Aging Research Unit. “It is a bold goal, but it is doable, and only by setting a bold and inspiring goal will we be challenged to mobilize the best and the brightest in our nation to think 'out-of-the-box' to avoid the unimaginable costs of Alzheimer's to our nation and the millions of families personally affected by the disease.”

“Incremental steps and half measures are not enough to confront the growing Alzheimer’s crisis,” said George Vradenburg, co-founder of USAgainstAlzheimer’s, a co-convenor of LEAD. “Instead, the Advisory Council should consider the daring directives outlined in this new report. From the day John Kennedy told America we would land on the moon, it took eight years for the Apollo 11 to touch down. With a transformational national plan, we could be on the verge of another giant leap for mankind.”

“This is a crisis situation that calls for a crisis-like response,” said Eric J. Hall, founding president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, a co-convenor of LEAD. “Families have borne the financial and emotional toll of this disease for far too long. Now is our once-in-a-lifetime chance to give them relief, and to relieve future generations from having the threat of this disease hanging over them.”

Development of an integrated national plan to defeat Alzheimer’s disease is mandated under the new National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), signed by President Obama early this year.

LEAD was founded in 2008 and includes nationally renowned experts, advocacy groups and others involved in the Alzheimer’s community. Participants in LEAD actively supported the passage of NAPA and are prepared to serve as a resource to the Advisory Council as it moves forward with its review of a strategic plan to defeat Alzheimer’s disease.

The entire report, including the recommendations of four working groups – addressing the areas of research, clinical care, long-term care support and services, and drug development – can be found here.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room