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Obama administration proposes raise for Alzheimer’s research

WASHINGTON —

The Obama administration is increasing spending on Alzheimer’s research — planning to surpass half a billion dollars next year — as part of a quest to find effective treatments for the brain-destroying disease by 2025.

In a two-part plan announced today, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) immediately will devote an extra $50 million dementia research, on top of the $450 million a year it currently spends.

The boost opens the possibility that at least one stalled study of a possible therapy might get to start soon.

Next week, President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $80 million in new money to spend for Alzheimer’s research in 2013.

“The science of Alzheimer’s disease has reached a very interesting juncture,” with promising new findings to pursue after years of false starts, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told The Associated Press. “We would love to be able to come up with a way of bringing forward an even larger amount of support.”

Patient advocates have long said the nation’s spending on Alzheimer’s research is far too little considering the disease’s current and coming toll. More than 5 million people already have Alzheimer’s or related dementias, a number that, barring a medical breakthrough, is expected to more than double by 2050 because of the aging population. By then, the medical and nursing home bills are projected to cost $1 trillion annually.

At a meeting last month, some of the government’s own Alzheimer’s advisers said it could take a research investment of as much as $2 billion a year to make a real impact. “Our country cannot afford not to make these commitments,” Alzheimer’s Association President Harry Johns told that meeting.

For comparison, the government spends nearly $3 billion on AIDS research; about 1.1 million Americans are living with the AIDS virus.

Advocates praised the administration for making a needed down payment in tough economic times.

“This is a positive step forward. It’s going to take additional steps on the journey that’s going to get us to the end of this,” Johns said.

“There is no doubt that there is commitment that needs to be applauded here,” added Eric J. Hall, president of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. — AP

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