Hillary Clinton unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would spend $2 billion a year for the next decade on Alzheimer’s research, with the goal of reaching a cure for the disease by 2025. The plan would greatly increase federal funding for Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
“We owe it to the millions of families who stay up at night worrying about their loved ones afflicted by this terrible disease and facing the hard reality of the long goodbye to make research investments that will prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible by 2025,” Clinton said in a statement. “The best scientific minds tell us we have a real chance to make groundbreaking progress on curing this disease and relieving the pain so many families feel every day. My plan will set us on that course.”
The former secretary of state was expected to talk about the plan during a campaign stop Tuesday in Fairfield, Iowa. Her team developed the plan after consulting leading physicians and scientists, the campaign said. Alzheimer's is an irreversible brain disorder that worsens over time and eventually destroys a person's memory and ability to carry out even the simplest of tasks.
The plan would be paid for by tax reforms and budget saving measures that Clinton plans to propose. This Alzheimer’s plan is the latest in a series of policy proposals that Clinton’s campaign has said focus on helping middle-class families, such as the tax credit for caregivers she announced last month.
Clinton’s announcement marks the first time a presidential candidate has made Alzheimer’s a major campaign issue, Robert Egge, executive director of the advocacy group Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. During the call, the Clinton campaign also pointed out the economic toll the disease takes on the United States.
There are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Because of the aging U.S. population, that number is expected to increase to nearly 15 million by 2050.
Clinton’s campaign has focused on the disease’s impact on women and minorities, who disproportionately suffer from Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds of those over 65 with Alzheimer’s are women, and it is twice as prevalent in African-Americans as in white individuals. Latino people are one and a half times as likely as whites to have Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association also estimates that caring for people with the disease has cost the country $226 billion this year, half of which was carried by Medicare. The average Medicare spending on an individual with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is three times higher than for those without the disease, and Medicaid payments are 19 times higher for those with Alzheimer’s.
Doctors have made discoveries in recent years that could help bring them closer to a cure for Alzheimer’s, but they often don’t have the necessary funding, according to Rudolph Tanzi, director of the Genetics and Aging Research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, who joined the Clinton campaign’s conference call Tuesday.
“This is an epidemic that could single-handedly crush Medicare and Medicaid,” Tanzi, who is also a professor at Harvard Medical School, said. “Our main bottleneck in this field has been funding,” and not knowledge, he added.