On November 28, in collaboration with Biogen and Eisai, The Hill hosted Preparing for a Treatment – Alzheimer’s Diagnosis and Care, which featured Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), along with experts throughout the memory care and Alzheimer’s space. Senators Markey and Tillis discussed the vital need and urgency in funding for Alzheimer’s research and the need for a bipartisan effort towards a cure.
Senator Markey stated that more than five million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s, and by 2050 that figure could triple to 16 million. Alzheimer’s remains one of the most underfunded and underdiagnosed chronic illnesses, despite having devastating effects equivalent to that of cancer or diabetes. Senator Markey reminisced on the Apollo moon landing in the ‘60s, recalling that the journey to the moon was an impressive feat for our nation and that we must now venture into the journey of the mind, a similarly vastly unexplored area.
Senator Tillis emphasized the importance of continued development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s. He warned against disengaging in collaborative efforts with pharmaceutical companies on account of a few bad actors, as diminished engagement with pharmaceutical and biotech companies could have devastating effects on risk–taking and innovation.
Experts from the panel agreed with the Senators that there is a great need for increased research in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and primary care spaces. The panelists stated that Alzheimer’s is currently the only disease that has no cure, methods of prevention, or strategies to slow down progression. However, there have been significant advancements made in the detection of Alzheimer’s in the form of amyloid positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Amyloid PET scans allow physicians to detect the development of amyloid plaques, which are clumps of insoluble plaques in the brain that destroy connections between nerve cells. These images can afford physicians the ability to detect Alzheimer’s in patients 10-15 years before a diagnosis, potentially transforming primary care delivery and forging a path towards prevention.
The panelists also discussed the Bold Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act (S.2076), which would expand the public health infrastructure to support patients, caregivers, and communities in the Alzheimer’s space. Additionally, the bill would require greater reporting and analysis of state and national data on cognitive decline, caregiving, and health disparities. Introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Catherine Cortez Masto (R-NV), S. 2076 now enjoys 57 bipartisan co–sponsors, including Senators Markey and Tillis.
The National Consumers League supports efforts such as S. 2076 that would make strides in addressing Alzheimer’s disease. NCL is also proud to be a partner in WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s We Won’t Wait Campaign, which seeks to unite women in a widespread effort to define Alzheimer’s as the 21st Century’s primary economic justice issue and health crisis for women. The Campaign promotes advocacy, education, and action on five key pillars: public funding, sex-based research, economic justice, diagnosis and treatment, and brain health.