Alzheimer's Research Funding Down

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans can show brain lesions usually associated with Alzheimers disease, aiding in diagnosing the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more Americans than breast cancer, prostate cancer and HIV/AIDS, yet research on the disease receives significantly less funding. According to Public Radio International, this lack of financial support is one of the prime reasons experts say they’re having trouble finding a cure.

In 2011, the National Institutes of Health spent $6 billion on cancer research and $3 billion AIDS research. Alzheimer’s, which kills more Americans every year than breast and prostate cancer combined, received only $480 million.

“Alzheimer’s is a disease which clearly has been underfunded,” said U.S. Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

Markey, whose wife died of the disease in 1998, is currently sponsoring the National Alzheimer’s Project Act to direct more funding to research. He told Public Radio International that he believes part of the reason the disease receives so little attention is because victims and their caregivers have a more difficult time getting to the nation’s capital to lobby for support.

“That’s different from other diseases where the victims themselves can lead the marches,” he told the news service.

Other reasons for lack of funding may include the stigma attached to diseases of the mind, reluctance to admit diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and bias toward diseases that affect younger people. These issues are combining to impede progress in curing the disease, says Tim Armor of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.

“The science is moving much faster than the resources,” Armor said. “If we had the money, the science would be able to move much faster toward ameliorating this condition.” According to Markey, investment in curing Alzheimer’s would save the federal government money in the long run. Already, Medicare and Medicaid are spending $130 billion annually to look after those diagnosed with the disease. “That number will balloon to $500 or $600 billion by the time all the baby boomers have retired,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “The strongest argument, beyond the humanitarian argument, is that the budget cannot be balanced in the years ahead if this kind of a drain is placed upon it.”
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