US & Canada

US sets 2025 goal to tame Alzheimer's

A PET scan of a regular brain (left) and one affected by Alzheimer's (right)
Image caption A PET scan of a patient with Alzheimer's (right) shows reduced function and blood flow to the brain

The US says it will seek an effective treatment for Alzheimer's by 2025, as it faces an ageing population and spiralling health costs.

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the goal as part of the first National Alzheimer's Plan.

An additional $50m will be added to research funding during 2012.

About 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's or related dementias, a number expected to reach 16 million by 2050, at a cost of $1tn (£625m).

In addition, the plan calls for better training of doctors in a bid to better recognise the symptoms of the disease, increased support for care-givers and public awareness of the disease, as well as better data tracking.

President Barack Obama has earmarked an additional $80m in his 2013 budget plan for Alzheimer's research in what was described as an effort to "jumpstart" efforts to reach the 2025 goal.

New research

As part of the plan, the Department of Health and Human Services also launched a website to provide information and resources to care-givers.

Mrs Sebelius said the Alzheimer's plan was a "national" effort and not a centralised push by the federal government.

"Reducing the burden of Alzheimer's will require the active engagement of both the public and private sectors," she said.

The plan was unveiled as part of a two-day National Institutes for Health (NIH) symposium focused on the fight against the disease, held as researchers prepared to announce two clinical trials designed to treat Alzheimer's.

"We are at an exceptional moment," said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

One trial tests the use of a drug that attacks amyloid - a protein thought to be a cause of Alzheimer's. The trial will involve 300 patients from an extended family who show no symptoms but are genetically likely to have the disease earlier in life.

The trial will be funded through the National Institutes of Health as well as the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, but with most of the funding from Genetech, the drug's US manufacturer.

The second trial will test an insulin nasal spray's ability to restore memory for those with the disease.

Previous research has linked Alzheimer's to diabetes, especially to the adult-onset form of the disease.

The plan comes as the US moves to implement its healthcare reform law, which currently faces scrutiny and possible repeal by the Supreme Court.

Research and advocacy group the Alzheimer's Association estimates that treating the disease would carry a $200bn price tag in 2012 and a cost of $1tn by 2050, including $140 billion in costs to government healthcare programmes Medicare and Medicaid.

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