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Still Striving to #ENDALZ

November 18, 2019
Weekly Columns

First designated as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, November draws attention to the widespread impact of this mysterious disease. Like many others across the nation, my family knows all too well the heartbreaking decline that takes place in those suffering with Alzheimer’s. During the last several years of my father’s life, my family watched helplessly and with heavy hearts as a lifetime of memories disappeared for him through the various stages of the disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth among seniors. Tragically though, there is still a lot we don’t know about the cause of Alzheimer’s or why it rapidly progresses. And since the cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, medical professionals cannot predict or prevent the onset of the disease, nor can they predict the timeline for the deterioration of one’s mind. Meanwhile, the number of patients suffering with the disease is rapidly growing. Indeed, someone develops the disease every 65 seconds. In fact, deaths from the disease have increased 145 percent between 2000 to 2017. Unless a cure is found, it is projected that 13.8 million American seniors will fall victim to the disease by 2050.

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America, straining both public and private budgets. This year alone, Alzheimer’s and other dementias are estimated to cost the U.S. approximately $290 billion in direct costs. Along the current trajectory, the cost of Alzheimer’s and other dementias will eclipse $1 trillion by 2050. But that estimate doesn’t account for the human cost, including the resulting decline in the health of family members who often serve as caretakers and take on the immense physical and emotional burden that comes with that job.

Though strides have been made in recent years to respond to this national health crisis, we must remain steadfast in the search for answers and ultimately a cure. Since fiscal year 2016, I am proud that Republicans in Congress have led the charge to increase government funding to study this mysterious disease. While I was chairman of the appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I helped secure historic funding increases for dedicated Alzheimer’s research, quadrupling federal support from $600 million a year to $2.4 billion. As I continue to serve on that same panel as the top Republican, I remain committed to building on this momentum and working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to secure incremental increases.

In the days ahead as lawmakers work toward final funding for fiscal year (FY) 2020, I am confident that Republicans and Democrats can continue to build on the significant progress made and approve another substantial increase for dedicated Alzheimer’s disease research. Doing so will be one of my major objectives as we finalize the FY 2020 budget.