Alzheimer’s disease: an epidemic in rural America
While many of us are focused on the pandemic, chances are you know someone who is battling Alzheimer’s disease. Healthcare experts call it an epidemic in rural America.
Lawmakers want to know if lessons learned from COVID-19, can offer strategies to fight dementia.
Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth leading cause of death for Americans, with more than 5.8 million people living with the disease, according to the National Institute of Health.
During a Senate finance committee, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow noted how the disease has a much larger impact than just the statistics.
According to Sen. Stabenow, “Behind these numbers there is what is most important, and that’s grandparents, and parents, and aunts and uncles, friends, moms and dads, and loved ones who have faced this horrific diagnosis and limited treatment options.”
Dr. Richard Mohs, Chief Scientific Officers for the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation, says that it is critical for smaller firms to have equitable access to funding for critical research.
“There has been a shift, in my view, in a lot of the activity from late phase trials, high profile, and very expensive, to lots of looking at earlier stage molecules, smaller trials, trying to understand whether or not if any of these new approaches might be valuable, and in many cases these smaller trials are being undertaken exclusively, or in partnership with smaller biotechnology companies,” Dr. Mohs explains.
The Alzheimer’s Association is also launching new research to discover how lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise, can lower the risk or severity of the disease.
“That’s why the Alzheimer’s Association launched the U.S. Pointer study, it’s going to look at four different modifiable risk factors to see if we can translate that into a public recipe that we can recommend,” Dr Maria Carillo states. “We hope to work with the bipartisan Bold Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, which became law in 2018, so we can work together to advertise and make public that risk reduction is one of the strategies we should all be using.”
Dr. Randall Bateman of the Washington University School of Medicine also suggests lawmakers launch a task force to determine how the strategies that were used to develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 could be applied to other diseases.
“I think the urgency that was applied to COVID-19, the coordination that was applied, and the massive amount of support and fiscal resources that were applied have directly led to that acceleration,” he states.
In addition to the personal impact on millions of lives, the disease is also a growing burden on the government. A study by the National Institutes on Aging found the annual cost of dementia is projected to rise as high as $511 billion dollars by 2040.
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