Federal health officials Tuesday unveiled details of the Obama administration’s ambitious national plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease, an effort that includes a $100 million landmark trial of a drug that will try to prevent those at high risk for the ailment from getting it.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this week outlined details of the called for in the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), which President Obama signed into law in January 2011. Federal officials issued a press release on the plan Tuesday.
The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease sets forth five goals, including the development of effective prevention and treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025.
In February, the administration announced that it would take immediate action to implement parts of the plan, including making additional funding available in fiscal 2012 to support research, provider education and public awareness.
On Tuesday Sebelius announced additional actions, including the funding of two major clinical trials, jump-started by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) infusion of additional 2012 funds directed at Alzheimer’s disease; the development of new high-quality, up-to-date training and information for our nation’s clinicians; and a new public education campaign and website to help families and caregivers find the services and support they need.
To help accelerate the national initiative, the President’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget provides a $100 million increase for efforts to combat Alzheimer’s disease. These funds will support additional research ($80 million), improve public awareness of the disease ($4.2 million), support provider education programs ($4.0 million), invest in caregiver support ($10.5 million), and improve data collection ($1.3 million).
“These actions are the cornerstones of an historic effort to fight Alzheimer’s disease,” Sebelius said. “This is a national plan — not a federal one, because reducing the burden of Alzheimer’s will require the active engagement of both the public and private sectors.”
The plan was unveiled at the Alzheimer’s Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention. The plan was developed with input from experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease issues and calls for a collaborative approach across federal, state, private and non-profit organizations.
More than 3,600 people or organizations submitted comments on the draft plan.
As many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is likely to double in the coming years. At the same time, millions of American families struggle with the physical, emotional and financial costs of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
The initiatives announced include the funding of new research projects by the NIH will focus on key areas in which emerging technologies and new approaches in clinical testing now allow for a more comprehensive assessment of the disease.
“This research holds considerable promise for developing new and targeted approaches to prevention and treatment,” according to the press release.
Specifically, two major clinical trials are being funded. One is a $7.9 million effort to test an insulin nasal spray for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
A second study, toward which NIH is contributing $16 million, is the first prevention trial in people at the highest risk for the disease. That $100 million study was the topic of a Page One story in The New York Times Wednesday, as well as coverage in papers such as The Wall Street Journal.
That test will involve a drug from Genentech Inc., crenezumab, and most of the participants will “come from the world’s largest family to experience Alzheimer’s, an extended clan of 5,000 people who live in Medellin, colobia, and rmeote mountain villages outside that city,” The Times reported.
As for as the Obama plan, the Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $2 million in funding through its geriatric education centers to provide high-quality training for doctors, nurses, and other health care providers on recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and how to manage the disease.
The Obama initiative also includes giving easier access to information to support caregivers. As part of that, the HHS’ new website, www.alzheimers.gov, offers resources and support to those facing Alzheimer’s disease and their friends and family.
“The site is a gateway to reliable, comprehensive information from federal, state, and private organizations on a range of topics,” Tuesday’s press release said. “Visitors to the site will find plain language information and tools to identify local resources that can help with the challenges of daily living, emotional needs, and financial issues related to dementia. Video interviews with real family caregivers explain why information is key to successful care giving, in their own words.”
The plan also includes an awareness campaign, with TV ads encouraging caregivers to seek information at the new website debuting. This media campaign will be launched this summer, reaching family members and patients in need of information on Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2013, the National Family Caregiver Support Program will continue to provide essential services to family caregivers, including those helping loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. This program will enable family caregivers to receive essential respite services, providing them a short break from care giving duties, along with other essential services, such as counseling, education and support groups.