The Obama administration declared Alzheimer's one of the country's biggest health challenges on Tuesday, adopting a national strategy that sets the clock ticking toward better treatments by 2025 -- along with help for suffering families today, The Associated Press reports.
Among the first steps in combating the disease is a new website - www.alzheimers.gov - that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called a one-stop shop for families who need easy-to-understand information about dementia and to learn where to get help in their own communities.
This summer, doctors and other health providers can start getting some free training on how to spot the early signs of Alzheimer's and the best ways to care for those patients.
And scientists are rolling up their sleeves, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told a meeting of the world's top Alzheimer's scientists - gathered to decide the top priorities to help meet that ambitious goal of better treatments, perhaps even ways to stall the disease, by 2025.
The NIH will spend an extra $50 million on Alzheimer's research this year, and among the new studies of possible therapies is a nasal spray that sends insulin straight to the brain. It might sound strange, but research has linked diabetes and Alzheimer's, and Collins said pilot testing suggested the insulin spray improved brain function.
Already, 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's or related dementias. Barring a research breakthrough, those numbers will jump by 2050, when up to 16 million Americans are projected to have Alzheimer's. It's the sixth-leading killer, and there is no cure. Treatments only temporarily ease some symptoms.
Beyond the suffering, it's a budget-busting disease for Medicare, Medicaid and families. Caring for people with dementia will cost the U.S. $200 billion this year alone, and $1 trillion by 2050, the Alzheimer's Association estimates.