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St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Op-ed): Senator supports increased funding for Alzheimer's research

November 28, 2015

In her letter "Increase funding to find a cure for Alzheimer's" (Nov. 21), Martha Daly issued a call to action to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research. I have been proud to lead efforts in the Senate to boost funding for the National Institutes of Health, including a 60 percent increase for Alzheimer’s research, and hope my colleagues will answer Daly’s call and join me in this critical effort.

Every 68 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s. There are currently more than 5 million Americans living with the disease and, as Daly noted, that number is expected to reach 16 million by 2050. Yet for every $260 Medicare and Medicaid spend on caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the federal government spends only $1 on Alzheimer’s research. Increasing funding for NIH research will help close that gap, and bring us closer to finding a cure for this devastating disease.

Over the past year, cutting-edge NIH-supported research identified a set of 10 compounds in blood that might be used to distinguish the risk for developing memory deficits or Alzheimer’s disease. And, according to the National Institute on Aging, scientists are now able to look beyond simply treating symptoms and focus on addressing “underlying disease processes ..., developing and testing several possible interventions, including immunization therapy, drug therapies, cognitive training, physical activity, and treatments used for cardiovascular and diabetes.” These are promising steps, but there is much more to be done.

As chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies, I advanced a bill this year that increased NIH funding by $2 billion — the largest increase NIH has received in this bill since 2003. The bill provided a $350 million increase for the National Institute on Aging, the lead institute researching Alzheimer’s disease, and increased funding for other priorities like Precision Medicine, the BRAIN Initiative to map the human brain, and combating antibiotic resistance.

In the coming weeks, the Senate will take up legislation to fund the government for the coming year. I urge my colleagues to listen to their constituents, like Daly, who have experienced firsthand the heartache that comes with caring for a loved one with an incurable disease, and support increased funding for NIH and Alzheimer’s research.

Sen. Roy Blunt  •  R-Mo.

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