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More money sought to defeat Alzheimer's

From Brad Wright
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Alzheimer's disease poses a threat not only to the health of millions of Americans but also to Medicare, experts told a congressional panel Tuesday.

Advocates of increased funding for Alzheimer's research want Congress to increase spending to $1 billion from the current $600 million.

The testimony was before the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Alzheimer's Association released a poll claiming that while nearly all Americans recognize Alzheimer's as a serious problem facing the country, 57 percent say they are personally concerned about contracting the disease.

Alzheimer's attacks brain cells, causing dementia and eventually a loss of bodily control. It is believed affect about 10 percent of people aged 65 and older, and as many as half of all people 85 and older.

The Alzheimer's Association says by the year 2050 some 14 million Americans will be stricken with the disease unless a cure or prevention is found.

"The cost to Medicare of treating people with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to soar from $31.9 billion in 2000 to $49.3 billion in 2010, even though Medicare does not pay for most of long term care they need," said Orien Reid, who chairs the association's board of directors.

Actor David Hyde Pearce of the TV show "Frasier" compared the fight against Alzheimer's to the war against terrorism.

"When Americans are faced with the real threat and a terrible enemy," Pearce said, "We stand together and we marshal our resources to fight. For 14 million Americans, Alzheimer's disease is that threat."

The Alzheimer's Association mounted a well-organized effort that will likely catch the attention of Congress. The group packed one of the biggest hearing rooms on Capitol Hill and members plan to visit every congressional office.

Spokesman Scott Treibitz, however, acknowledged tough competition for the same tax dollars from advocates of other worthy causes such as Parkinson's disease and cancer.

He said a good increase for Alzheimer's research is expected this year, but the $1 billion they seek may have to wait until next year.


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