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Hillary Clinton wants to find a cure for Alzheimer’s within nine years. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP/Corbis)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday that she will call for a massive increase in federal spending to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Clinton is proposing that the government spend $2 billion a year in an attempt to cure the disease by 2025.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the only top-10 cause of death in America that can’t be prevented, cured, or slowed down. An estimated 5.1 million people age 65 or older have the disease, and that number is expected to increase to 7.1 million by 2025.
But money isn’t the only part of Clinton’s plan. According to a briefing on her website, Clinton came up with a proposal to find a cure after consulting with “leading physician-scientists to understand what it would take to rapidly accelerate the progress we are making.”
Here are the highlights of her plan, per the brief on her site:
Commit to preventing Alzheimer’s and making a cure possible by 2025
“Top researchers have noted that this is achievable if we make the commitment, marshal the resources, and provide the needed leadership,” the briefing says.
Spend $2 billion a year on Alzheimer’s research
According to Clinton’s campaign, the National Institutes of Health invested $586 million in Alzheimer’s research in 2015. Clinton plans to ramp up the investment to $2 billion annually, which leading researchers have told her is needed to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s, and make a cure possible by 2025.
Create a “reliable stream” of funding between now and 2025
Ensuring that $2 billion a year will go toward Alzheimer’s research will allow scientists to purse the “the big, creative bets — including cross-collaboration with researchers in related fields — that can result in dramatic pay-offs not only for Alzheimer’s but for other neurodegenerative illnesses as well,” the brief says.
Make a plan of action
Clinton will have a team oversee the initiative, and vows to consult regularly with researchers to make sure they’re working toward the goal. “She knows that reaching the goal will involve investments across the drug development cycle, from basic research to applied and translational research to public-private partnerships for clinical research,” the brief says.
Related: Are We Getting Alzheimer’s Wrong?
While $2 billion a year in government spending sounds daunting, Alzheimer’s disease is already costing the country much more. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease cost the nation $226 billion in 2015. That cost could rise to as much as $1.1 trillion in 2050.
But Bradley Hyman, MD, PhD, director of the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center tells Yahoo Health that this plan has been in the works for years thanks to a variety of advocacy groups, as well as the National Institutes of Health.
“This didn’t come out of the blue,” he says. “It’s more that she’s endorsing this already established program.”
Regardless of the origin, Hyman says the plan is “absolutely necessary,” adding, “you can’t look at the demographics of the population aging and what we understand of Alzheimer’s disease without getting scared.”
Nine years sounds like a very short period of time in which to find a cure, but Hyman thinks it’s achievable. “The science has really been ramping up in the last decade,” he says. “The limitation now is the resources to test these ideas, rather than lack of ideas.” (Those “resources” include money, communication between researchers, and infrastructure, which the new plan hopes to address.)
While Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at California’s Providence Saint John’s Health Center tells Yahoo Health that he’s optimistic that the plan will help find a cure within nine years, he also points out that there have been no new Alzheimer’s drugs approved within the past decade — even though the FDA has lowered the criteria required to get a new drug to market.
However, he says the extra money should help fuel new research. “It’s not going to get better without money,” he says.
Hyman says he’s hopeful that he plan will go into effect — and have a big impact on the health of the American public. “I take care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and it is a devastating illness,” he says. “It’s impossible to see a way forward unless we make progress.”
Clinton plans to discuss her proposal during a campaign stop in Iowa on Tuesday.