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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Limited Funding For Alzheimer’s Research Draws Criticism

Rep. Ed Markey on Revere Beach, where his mother would take him and his brothers, before she developed Alzheimer's. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, killing more Americans each year than breast and prostate cancer combined.

Yet in 2011, the National Institutes of Health spent over 6 billion dollars on cancer research and less than 480 million on Alzheimer’s research.

Additionally, the NIH spends $3 billion a year on AIDS research. Alzheimer’s, which affects more than five times as many Americans, receives just under $500 million a year.

Personal Experience Prompts Action

Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey’s mother developed Alzheimer’s when she was in her 80s, and he is now fighting for more funding for research into the disease.

Markey says his father cared for his mother for 13 years at their family home. The congressman often came back from Washington to help until she died in 1998.

Markey’s personal experience shaped his commitment to funding research for treatment. He’s the U.S. House sponsor of the recently passed National Alzheimer’s Project Act, a strategic plan to address the epidemic.

In the fourth part of our week-long series on Alzheimer’s, Here and Now‘s Monica Brady-Myerov explores Markey’s efforts to increase research funding for Alzheimer’s and why there is a gap in funding.

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  • Northstar

    With Alzheimer’s symptoms so similar to Lyme and associated tick-borne (LAD)diseases/infections, it is critical to have a solid clinical assessment of patients to insure that the patient really has Alzheimer’s. LAD is the great imitator- orthopaedic, neurological and other diseases and conditions might just be be LAD undiagnosed. The drugs being tested or in the pipeline are also impacted by this conundrum.

  • Mic43452

    It seems that the culture in the U.S. is to treat the  illness as opposed to prevention it.

  • Lilyloohoo

    This disease could be caused by either a tick bite or sexually transmitted. See the movie “Under Our Skin” to hear about the similarities and problems associated with Lyme disease and it’s close connection with Alzheimer’s. These connections should be more widely researched, reported and discussed!

  • Mag123

    Alzheimer’s symptoms can appear in adults at such an early age. My mother was in in mid 50′s  in the late 1970′s when she started having problems. It was hidden away. The thing to do back then. She lived till ’04 and as her primary caretaker along with my sister, it was difficult to convince the rest of the family that she needed help. With the passing of time, Alzheimer’s has become more acceptable today. People are much more understanding of the disease. Until politicians fully fund the medical research and stop funding the military, it will be a long time till the cause and cure will be found.

  • Drjohn

    My physician, when I told him my wife has Alzheimer’s – she has a different doctor – said he’d rather have a diagnosis of cancer. I know what he meant!

  • http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/The+Last+of+His+Mind Swallow Press

    The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s is an award-winning memoir by John Thorndike. Thorndike moved into his father’s home on Cape Cod to provide care as his father declined, and he was able to document the experience’s highs and lows in this poignant story. Here is a link: http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/The+Last+of+His+Mind

  • Anonymous

    I am surprised by the lack of Federal funding allotted for Alzheimer’s research. 
    Exactly who deems which issues/diseases are worthy or unworthy of funds?   This signals that the 55+ population is not worthy of funding/tax dollars…this is such an  important issue — which will continue to grow in relevance to people of all ages.  It is relevant to all ages!  Particularly in the sense of current care expenditures of $130B  projected to $500B as baby boomers age.  Contact your  politicial reps and support your local Alz orgs –and   find creative ways (ie http://www.timeslips.org ) to transform our culture of dementia care, take away stigmas,  strive to improve the moment to moment quality of life of person’s with dementia, their families, and care partners.

  • Lavada

    I don’t know where Here and Now has been along with much of the mainstream media.
    I have been reading the research in print for many years here in the US and also overseas.
    Its also available on line to those who wish to do some actual research into the subject rather than believe everything the MSM feeds you for info, misinfo and disinfo.

    It been known for years that the accumulation of aluminum in the brain cells and also the spinal column results in Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.
    One only look at the aluminum in the Standard American Diet(SAD). There is no known need for aluminum in the human diet.
    I don’t expect the medical-industrial complex to inform or alert you of what the average person can do for preventative measures. After all Big Pharma is out to “sell” you some notion or potion to treat your problem. There is no money to be made in healthy people.
    I have seen what aluminum toxicity has done to people over the years young and old.Too much soda, too many antacids, medications, municipal drinking water,  too many foods containing aluminum compounds much of it hidden in additives.
    The folks of the mainstream media either avoid mentioning aluminum or are too stupid to understand it. Its basic chemistry, biology and nutrition. However when these medicos are trained at our great universities, the emphasis is on “treating” the patient with drugs.This is also about protecting those industries which produce these compounds containing aluminum which end up in the diets of many. The investors and stockholders have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.All one needs to do is spend some time doing your own research and thinking.Allowing the mainstream media to dictate your life will leave you as dumbed down as they wish.
    This quote says it all. You can substitute the word “cancer” for most any other dis-ease. 
    “The goal of curing the victims of cancer is more exciting, more tangible, more glamorous and rewarding than prevention… To prevent cancer from ever being formed is definitely more humane and much more effective than cancer cures.”       Dr. Wilhelm Hueper    As Cicero stated: “Once you have found the cause, you have found the cure.” 
    This web site lists over a dozen references about aluminum toxicity. I have read over half of these over the past 22 years. I have seen tests conducted overseas on rats, cats, mice and monkeys given diets containing aluminum.They exhibit similar symptoms found with Alzheimer patients and with other neurological and muscular disorders.




  • Lavada

    Do not alcohol, aluminum, aspartame, caffeine, canola, chlorine, fluoride, cow’s milk, malathion,mercury, nitrites, Nutrasweet, Neotane, Acesulfame potassium, xylitol, sorbitol tobacco, sucralose, sugar and vaccinations constitute biological and chemical warfare against us.

  • Lavada

      “Nothing offends patients more than to be asked to change their habits of life. Their desire is to be able to break every known law of health; then when they are called upon to pay the penalty, the expect complete absolution in a bottle or two of medicine. They are content to be patched up sufficiently to continue their practice of self-indulgence in various forms.”              …Dr. Alexander Bryce…

    “We start the day with caffeine, get through it with nicotine, relax in the evening with alcohol, start the next day with aspirin. Bubbling alkalizers remove yesterday’s brown taste to make room for today’s. That’s the real trouble, and there’s no pill for it.”              …Dr. Arthur H. Steinhaus…

    “Over and over I explain to patients, ‘Your pain, misery and illness results from your own dietary mistakes and drugs. You are suffering because you are filled with toxic wastes caused by your diet of poorly selected food filled with artificial flavorings, preservatives, synthetics, and over-processed ingredients—too much stimulating food and too few natural vitamins from vegetables and fruits….’ ”
    Henry G. Bieler, MDFood is Your Best Medicine

  • Blair

    I believe that complaining about not enough funding is a symptom of a system within the Alzheimer’s disease world that needs to change. Managing scientists to work together, not duplicating research, keeping basic science important but moving towards translation research and tracking the results and failures will help gain more desired results – medications and cures. It is pretty amazing that $480 million dollars- in one year!! – can’t produce more than many many published articles in revered publications and not more medications and perhaps a cure. My daughter has a rare disease – Shwachman Diamond Syndrome with maybe 3000 people in the world – and I am the president of the foundation that has worked with many scientists to urge them to work together.  to find the gene, establish a registry, produce enough basic science to find ourselves talking to a few scientists (some who we are funding for $65,000/year for 2 years) that are potentially 2 years away from repurposing an ameliorative drug to save lives. The NIH has perhaps granted a total of $1 million dollars over 15 years to this disease and we couldn’t have done it without them. But more money isn’t always the answer. A Whack on the side of the head can sometimes produce a new direction that doesn’t require the money that you think it does.

    • Anonymous

      Dear Blair, the reality is that some diseases are more complex and heterogenous to tackle than others. Diseases with genetic polymorphisms are perhaps the easiest to elucidate, whereas a multisystem disease like Alzheimer’s disease is much more difficult to tackle.
      But you are right in that its not just about the money, scientists need to be asking bolder questions rather than doing easy studies that further their careers, but might not benefit patients much.
      I wish you luck in finding treatments for your daughter.

  • Anonymous

    Here are the facts:

    According to the last WHO disease burden estimate, the total DALYs for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia were 260,000 for the USA.

    NIH funding levels per category is here:

    A recent study comparing disease burden and NIH funding is here:

    We can use the linear regression model to determine whether it is underfunded compared to most other conditions. The burden and funding of dental and oral disorders were similar, with 267,000 DALYs and that recieved 413 million, which was very similar to the NIH funding of Alzheimer’s disease at that time the data was sourced.

    Regression graph here: http://www.plosone.org/article/slideshow.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0016837&imageURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0016837.g002

    As you can see, Alzheimer’s disease received above average funding compared to the predicted levels of both regression models.

    Meanwhile there are conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that also have DALY figures for the USA in the region of 250,000, but yet it only receives $6 million per year from the NIH. That is to say CFS is underfunded by 80 times compared to Alzheimer’s disease!

    The above study simply shows that some types of cancer and HIV/AIDS research is overfunded, not that Alzheimer’s disease is underfunded. If you want to rally against inequity in research funding, we should start with the most neglected diseases like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

  • MA Jack

    Maybe if Rep. Markey didn’t support the vast wasteful spending Congress is addicted to for absolute crap (cowboy poets?  tvs and gas generators for Vietnam?, see Tom Coburn’s recent report on waste), we could spend more on Alzheimers.  Memo to Ed, WE ARE BROKE.  We cannot keep spending money we don’t have.  Folks like you have put us in this predicament.  Deal with it.

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