Prevention and cure of Alzheimer's disease important to Americans

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A new voter survey sponsored by the ACT-AD Coalition (Accelerate Cure/Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease) finds that three-quarters of Americans nationwide and across party lines say it is personally important to them to find a cure or to prevent Alzheimer's disease, while a similar proportion of the national electorate say they look to Congress to make it "a national priority" to speed up the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) review process in specific ways for therapies that slow, halt or reverse the disease. Voters in large numbers also said that they would not be able to cover the personal cost of Alzheimer's care and that they were ready to reward or punish elected officials at the polls based on their willingness to act on Alzheimer's now.

The survey was conducted jointly by the bipartisan team of Lake Research Partners (D) and American Viewpoint (R). Findings were presented today at the Rock Stars of Science Capitol Hill Briefing, sponsored by Geoffrey Beene Gives Back((R)), Research!America , Alzheimer Association, Wyeth, and Elan; and made possible with the cooperation of The Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus and the Alzheimer's Caucus. The briefing united leaders in medical research including the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, and rock star Joe Perry from Aerosmith, to rally lawmakers to increase funding for medical research priorities like Alzheimer's, cancer, HIV/AIDS and genomics.

According to Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners, "There is clear voter support for action on Alzheimer's Disease. This survey sends a message to elected officials that Alzheimer's has captured the nation's attention, and that it may prove to be an important electoral issue."

Dan Perry, President of ACT-AD, a coalition of national organizations seeking to accelerate development of potential cures and treatments for Alzheimer's, believes that the survey reflects "the beginning of an Alzheimer's challenge from the American voter. We are on the verge of becoming the next generation of Alzheimer's casualties, and yet we have access to the same number of treatments to slow or stop the disease that our parents and grand parents had - none. Add to this treatment vacuum the fact that the recession leaves Americans with lower personal savings and a near-bankrupt healthcare system that is ill-prepared to manage the coming Alzheimer's explosion. It should come as no surprise that Americans are telling their representatives to find answers to this problem before it is too late."

Survey Findings

According to the survey, voters nationwide and across the political spectrum believe:

Alzheimer's is a personal and national priority.

  • 76 percent of voters nationwide say it is personally important to find a cure for Alzheimer's and 77 percent believe it is personally important to prevent Alzheimer's disease. Sentiment is similar across party lines.
  • 79 percent want Congress to make it "a national priority" to speed up the FDA's review process for therapies that slow, halt or reverse the disease.

FDA review policy on Alzheimer's should reflect this priority.

In the past, the FDA has accelerated its review programs for life threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer in order to bring urgently needed therapies to patients without sacrificing safety. The survey suggests that American voters now support the same priorities for Alzheimer's therapies.

  • 47 percent of voters nationwide think the FDA should make all possible Alzheimer's treatments available and allow patients and doctors to decide about risks and benefits, and another 28 percent believe promising drugs for Alzheimer's deserve the same priority status and fast track review by the FDA as promising drugs for other life-threatening diseases.
  • A minority of 15 percent think the FDA should continue to use current procedures of delaying a therapy until it is determined to be completely safe.

Without treatment breakthroughs, Americans cannot cover the cost of Alzheimer's care.

  • 56 percent of voters nationwide said that they are not confident that they would be able to cover the cost of long-term Alzheimer's care if they or a loved one were diagnosed, with over a third (35 percent) saying they are not at all confident about covering the cost.

Financial assistance will be needed to pay for Alzheimer's.

  • 72 percent strongly favor expanding Medicare coverage to include Alzheimer's therapies and services in non-traditional settings like the patient's home.
  • 71 percent strongly favor tax deductions for long term care insurance.
  • 68 percent strongly support allowing parents under 65 who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's to be claimed as dependents by their children.
  • 63 percent strongly support tax incentives to caregivers whose parents have Alzheimer's.

American voters across party lines are ready to make Alzheimer's drug review an issue at the polls.

  • 63 percent would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who is in favor of urging the FDA to speed up their review of therapies that will slow or reverse Alzheimer's. Forty-nine percent would be less likely to vote for a candidate who came out against urging the FDA to speed up their review of therapies that slow or reverse Alzheimer's.

"Congressional efforts such as The Senate Subcommittee on Aging, as well as FDA leaders, have worked with the Alzheimer's community very closely in recent years to explore a national response," commented Perry. "But the lack of real voter demand has allowed these initiatives to lag. That so many voters across the country and across the political spectrum now see Alzheimer's as a priority may mean that this disease finally has the kind of momentum that our leaders must respond to."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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