Although President Barack Obama committed $122 million to Alzheimer’s research last month, Cindy Lowery of the Alzheimer’s Association said more must be done.
“Alzheimer’s is a scary disease, a fatal disease,” Lowery said. “It is going to extremely impact, if not bankrupt, our health care system if we don’t find new and better treatment and a cure.”
The Kiwanis Club of Cleveland listened closely as Lowery discussed the disease, current research and potential treatments at a recent luncheon.
A common misconception is that Alzheimer’s is a normal part of growing old. The disease is actually a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
According to statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Lowery continued the dour list by saying one out of three senior citizens dies from Alzheimer’s.
The association is not discouraged by the statistics. Instead, renewed focus has been placed on research. In fact, research is a core component of the recently released five-year strategic plan.
Lowery explained while $122 million might seem like a lot of money, it is not when compared to other recipients of research dollars. Those highlighted included: cancer, $5.6 billion; HIV Aids, $.3.1 billion; heart care and cardiovascular, $2 billion. The numbers compare starkly with Alzheimer’s $500 million from 2013.
“We are not at all saying take money away from cancer research or heart disease research or diabetes research,” Lowery said. “What we are saying is, when we look at the advancements that have been made in those areas, the cause of death has dropped.”
She pointed out deaths from cardiovascular disease are down by 16 percent. Additionally, HIV AIDs related deaths are down 23 percent, and cancer is down by 4 percent. In contrast, Alzheimer’s disease deaths increased by 68 percent.
The association believes there is a direct correlation between the amount of money allotted to research and the reduction of those dying from the disease.
New tests for Alzheimer’s disease and drugs hold promise for the future.
“There is a new drug being tested, and it is in its third clinical trial, that stops Alzheimer’s disease,” Lowery said. “It doesn’t cure it. It doesn’t reverse it. We don’t know how long it will stop it, but we’ve never had anything that would stop it.”
The idea is the early diagnosis tests could catch Alzheimer’s, and the clinical drug could stop the disease in its tracks.
Several drugs on the horizon look to potentially slow down the build up of plaques and tangles in the brain. It is believed the drugs would also stop the progression of the disease.
“So, there are some exciting things going on in research,” Lowery said. “We expect a breakthrough in 2025. We know that is only in 11 years, but I think our CEO thinks it will happen earlier.”
Continued Lowery, “It could happen in our lifetime, which is very exciting.”
Additional details on Alzheimer’s and the association can be found at www.alz.org.