Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan Dec. 22 to invest $2 billion per year to prevent, treat and make possible a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2025 if she is elected president of the United States. The amount, she said, is what researchers have told her is needed.

Clinton made the announcement at a campaign stop in Iowa.

“Making this bold new research investment in preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s will pay off not just for Alzheimer’s disease but for a range of neurodegenerative illnesses, from Parkinson’s disease to Lewy body dementia to frontotemporal dementia, and will also help us understand the intersection of Alzheimer’s with other conditions, including the high rate of individuals with Down syndrome who experience early-onset Alzheimer’s,” according to a fact sheet detailing the plan.

Additional components of Clinton’s plan include efforts to secure:

  • Funding to pay for a care-planning session with a clinician for every Medicare beneficiary in whom Alzheimer’s or a related dementia has been newly diagnosed.
  • Reauthorization of the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program, which has funded nonprofit initiatives to identify, locate and protect people with Alzheimer’s who wander.
  • Knowledge among Medicare beneficiaries that benefits include an annual cognitive screening.

The Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization working with the Alzheimer’s Association, commended Clinton for making the disease a priority. “Secretary Clinton’s plan is bold, and it aligns with the expert consensus of leading Alzheimer’s researchers and physicians nationwide,” Harry Johns, president and CEO of AIM, said in a statement. “We continue to urge all candidates to share their own plans for addressing this disease.”

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America President and CEO Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. said his organization appreciates the plan for heightening awareness of the need for increased funding of research related to the disease, and he specifically cited the plan’s attention to screening. “AFA has long been a leader in advocating for greater access to cognitive screenings,” Fuschillo said. “In the past two years, AFA has screened more than half a million people through its National Memory Screening Program that provides free and confidential cognitive screenings.”

USAgainstAlzheimer’s also said it supports Clinton’s plan. The group’s founder and chairman, George Vradenburg, said in a statement that the plan is “exactly what the country needs to address the enormous threat posed by this disease. It is the most specific and aggressive plan released by any presidential candidate to date and the most in line with what experts believe is necessary to stop Alzheimer’s by 2025.”

The National Institutes of Health invested $586 million in Alzheimer’s research in 2015. A newly approved appropriations bill would add $350 million in annual investment for research related to the disease, for a total of $936 million annually for Alzheimer’s disease research at the NIH, an increase of about 60% for fiscal year 2016.

USAgainstAlzheimer’s also supported the budget increase, with Vradenburg saying it is “a substantial step forward and shows that Congress is determined to address this horrific disease.”

The Alzheimer’s Association pointed out that passage of the funding amount marked the largest increase ever for federal Alzheimer’s research funding. Still, Johns, who also is president and CEO of the association, said, “Those of us on the front lines of this fight to end Alzheimer’s know that we need to stay on the offensive. Congress and the president should build on this progress and continue to listen to the leading medical experts and provide them with the resources next year and beyond to prevent, slow and ultimately develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.”

The NIH’s National Institute on Aging released an annual report, “2014-2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Advancing Research Toward a Cure,” this month. It details NIH-supported and conducted Alzheimer’s disease research initiatives, objectives and advances during 2014 and early 2015.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and no current treatments can change the course of the progressive brain disorder, the report’s introduction notes. “But we have every reason to hope,” it continues. “With increased public attention and resources, the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can change.”