U.S. launches ambitious Alzheimer's plan with research push

CHICAGO Tue May 15, 2012 1:53pm EDT

Holocaust survivor Betty Stein, 92, (R) is helped by coach Irina Jestkova as she plays ping pong at a program for people with Alzheimer's and dementia at the Arthur Gilbert table tennis center in Los Angeles, California June 15, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Holocaust survivor Betty Stein, 92, (R) is helped by coach Irina Jestkova as she plays ping pong at a program for people with Alzheimer's and dementia at the Arthur Gilbert table tennis center in Los Angeles, California June 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. government launched a national plan to address Alzheimer's disease on Tuesday with funding for a first prevention study in high-risk patients and tests on an insulin nasal spray that has shown promise in earlier studies.

The trials, funded by grants of $16 million and $7.9 million respectively, are initial steps in the National Alzheimer's Plan, a sweeping effort to find an effective way to prevent or treat Alzheimer's by 2025 and improve the care of those already afflicted with the brain-wasting disease.

"This is our roadmap that will help us meet our goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's disease by 2025," Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told scientists at an Alzheimer's summit at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

"The goal of the new law is to give us the kind of clear, national focus and attention on Alzheimer's that we've given to other diseases," Sebelius told the meeting, which was relayed by webcast, referring to the National Alzheimer's Project Act signed by President Barack Obama last year.

Experts predict that without more effective drugs, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's will double by 2050 and annual related healthcare costs could soar to more than $1 trillion.

The fatal form of dementia affects about 5.1 million Americans today and current treatments address symptoms, but cannot prevent the disease or stop its progression.

Sebelius said progress had so far proven elusive.

"We've yet to harness the right formula for drug development and clinical-trial results continue to be disappointing," she said. "We've yet to find effective treatments or proven ways to prevent Alzheimer's disease, and that's the ultimate goal."

Among the immediate actions will be funding for a study involving an antibody drug that attacks amyloid -- a protein thought to be a cause of Alzheimer's -- in an international study of people who are genetically predisposed to develop the disease early.

The second will test the use of an insulin nasal spray to restore memory in patients with Alzheimer's.

An earlier, small study of the latter approach by Suzanne Craft of the University of Washington published last year showed memory improvements in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's or a pre-Alzheimer's condition called amnestic mild cognitive impairment.


Funding for the new initiatives will come from $50 million the Obama administration has set aside for the National Alzheimer's Plan for fiscal 2012.

Another $100 million has been earmarked for fiscal 2013, including $80 million for research, $4.2 million for public awareness, $4 million for provider education, $10.5 million in caregiver support, and $1.3 million to improve data collection.

The national plan, called for in the National Alzheimer's Project Act signed by President Barack Obama last year, and drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), reflects the input of 3,600 people or organizations.

"The plan addresses every aspect of what it is to confront Alzheimer's disease," Sebelius told scientists at the summit.

It includes development of new training for doctors, a public education campaign, including TV advertisements and a website -- www.alzheimers.gov -- to help families and carers find services and support.

Dr. R. Scott Turner of Georgetown University Medical Center's Memory Disorders Program applauded the announcement.

"These steps offer a ray of hope for those affected by Alzheimer's," Turner said. "We need a robust awareness campaign specifically targeting participation in research studies."

He said many clinical trials were moving at a glacial pace because of a lack of study volunteers nationwide.

"We need more people with Alzheimer's disease and their families to consider participating in research," he said.

Sebelius said the plan was a national one, not a federal one, because it would require efforts from both public and private sectors to address the burden of Alzheimer's disease.

"This is a strong plan that promises important progress when implemented," said Harry Johns, president and chief executive of the Alzheimer's Association. "For all Americans - not just the more than 5 million living with Alzheimer's and their 15 million caregivers today - this plan is an historic achievement."

Some have criticized the 2025 goal for a treatment as being too ambitious given the state of the science, and it was the subject of lengthy debate in the advisory council tasked with helping to write the national plan.

"We had people saying it was overly ambitious and we had people who said it wasn't ambitious enough," said Don Moulds, principal deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, in a telephone interview.

Moulds said there was concern that an earlier goal might skew research funding into treatments that might be easy hits, but not game-changing treatments. In the end, the 2025 target was the earliest date a significant treatment could be found.

Although work was already going on to find a treatment for Alzheimer's, Moulds said the national plan and its specific targets and timelines would help focus the government's efforts.

"It's a huge initiative and a very ambitious step in the right direction," he said.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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Comments (9)
This is all about $$ for corporations, washington bureaucrats (NIH & HHS)& wasting our money…please watch the documentary Under Our Skin for the truth about alzheimer’s and other brain wasting “diseases”. All this research and $$$ being spent is about keeping all of these people employed and building an industry around disease!! Stop believing the hype and let the truth prevail over money in our country… for once.

Clearly these diseases are related to Lyme’s & the spirochete that causes it and other diseases. Time to listen to the researchers,doctors and patients who have no vested financial interest…including mainstream media like reuters who depend on advertising from drug companies. Lets see how long this post stays up to prove my point. I bet not long!

May 14, 2012 12:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
I misstated one line in my previous comment…meant to say NOT including mainstream media outlets such as reuters and others who depend on big pharma ad $$.

They are not telling the true story about these diseases…only parroting the govt bureaucracy, paid researchers’ and drug companies’ hype. The truth is out there but you won’t hear it from these sources due to their vested interests. Just like the FDA is run, bought and paid for by big corporations, so are the NIH, HHS and other govt agencies that we think are looking out for our own good, but are actually functioning as agents of the status quo for profit, not actual change. The cure and treatment are already there, just being suppressed by the massive $$4 exemplified in this article.

May 15, 2012 2:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DrKno wrote:
Go back in to your hole. You’re proposing an outlandish mechanism for a common disease, without considering the fact that the vast majority of individuals who have Alzheimer’s have never been exposed to B. burgdoeferi or T. pallidum. Borrelia is a geographically restricted pathogen, and T. pallidum exposure can be screened for easily with VDRL/RPR testing.

May 15, 2012 2:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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