Our expert this month is Ronald C. Petersen, PhD, MD, Director of Mayo Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. An internationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's disease, Dr. Petersen is a member of the World Dementia Council. He also chairs the Advisory Committee on Research, Care and Services for the National Alzheimer's Project Act and serves on the Executive Committee of the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry.
Dear Dr. Petersen,
My wife and I have seen how Alzheimer's disease can financially drain families. The cost is alarming, especially when you consider that the number of Americans living with Alzheimer's is expected to grow. What can we do as individuals, and as a nation, to increase research funding for Alzheimer's disease?
Your question – and others like it – has caused many sleepless nights for families affected by Alzheimer's as well as those of us involved in Alzheimer's disease research. However, the fact that you and others ask the question also shows awareness of the urgent need to support Alzheimer's disease research.
Before I discuss advocating for increased funding for Alzheimer's research, it's important to understand the scope of the challenge facing our nation. A recently released Alzheimer's Association report – Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer's Disease: How a Treatment by 2025 Saves Lives and Dollars – does this quite well.
According to the report, in 2015 it will cost an estimated $226 billion to care for 5.1 million Americans living with Alzheimer's. Now fast forward to 2050 where, absent a significant investment in research, the number of people living with Alzheimer's has grown to 13.5 million. The cost of their care is $1.1 trillion.
The report also reveals the potential for more positive news on the Alzheimer's financial front. A treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer's by five years could save government and private payers $367 billion in 2050. In this scenario, families would save $87 billion in 2050.
This significant savings will only be accomplished by a greater investment in research. You can advocate for this by contacting your U.S. Representatives and Senators to tell them you support increased federal funding for Alzheimer's disease research for the National Institutes of Health. Current federal funding for Alzheimer's research is an inadequate $498 million, which doesn't reflect the escalating national epidemic of Alzheimer's disease.
You can learn more about how to support Alzheimer's research funding at the Alzheimer's Advocates Center, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association. While you're there, take a look at the most recent recommendations from the National Alzheimer's Plan, which came out of legislation passed by Congress called the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA). The National Alzheimer's Plan has not only called for more robust public investment in Alzheimer's research but also supported collaboration with private research.
You also can support efforts to prevent Alzheimer's by joining the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry (APR). Through APR, you'll stay up-to-date on research opportunities and related activities.
In addition to allocating more public funds, it's also important that private charitable foundations, philanthropic organizations and individuals invest in Alzheimer's research. A partnership that includes public support, private investment and individual engagement is the best way to change the current trajectory with regard to Alzheimer's in our country.