16 December 2010. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act could be signed into law just in time for Christmas. On 8 December 2010, the U.S. Senate passed their version of the bipartisan Act (S.3036), originally coauthored by Representatives Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Chris Smith, New Jersey, and championed in the Senate by Evan Bayh from Indiana and Susan Collins of Maine. Early yesterday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly gave the Act their approval. President Obama now has 10 days to sign the Act into law or reject it.
The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) mandates the establishment of an office within the Department of Health and Human Services to devise a national plan for tackling Alzheimer’s disease, including coordination of efforts for research, treatment, and education. The Office will be aided by an Advisory Council. NAPA was one of the recommendations of the Alzheimer’s Study Group (see ARF related news story). To stay with the gift metaphor for a moment, however, NAPA is mostly a token of recognition, as it comes without appropriation of actual funds for research or care.
“This is a significant, but first step in devising a national strategy for dealing with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Bruce Lamb, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. “Ultimately, increased funding for research will be required to devise effective treatments and therapies for those suffering with the disease.” Lamb chaired the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride, which recently rolled into Washington in support of NAPA and the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act, which languishes in Congress. The Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act would appropriate an extra $2 billion a year to fund research on AD. This infusion would address a looming funding crisis at the National Institute on Aging (see ARF related conference story).
NAPA’s passage came after a flurry of intense activity in the national media and before Congress on the part of numerous advocacy groups in the past few weeks. For example, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America ran a telethon on NBC stations on 4 December, USAgainstAlzheimer’s organized a letter campaign, and the Alzheimer’s Association lobbied intensely. On 9 December, experts from the NIA, AD organizations, and a public-private partnership called the Coalition Against Major Diseases testified before the Subcommittee on Health for the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives. See their freely downloadable statements to the nation’s representatives.—Tom Fagan and Gabrielle Strobel.