June 23, 2011: Markey, Smith Call for International Cooperation in Fight to Cure Alzheimer

Markey, Congressional Taskforce ask UN President Deiss to include Alzheimer’s in discussions at September General Assembly meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) at theSubcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights hearing, “Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and Economic Impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease” to discuss the global pandemic of Alzheimer’s disease and the state of research collaboration internationally. Led by Reps. Markey and Smith,founders and co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Alzheimer’s Taskforce, the Task Force last week sent a letter along with 26 members of Congress to United Nations President Joseph Deiss urging him to include Alzheimer’s disease in discussions at the high-level meeting of United Nations Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) this September at the UN General Assembly.

“Not only is Alzheimer's disease a public health crisis, it is also a fiscal one,” wrote Reps. Markey, Smith and the members to President Deiss. “The global cost of Alzheimer's and related dementias exceeded $600 billion last year alone – one percent of the entire world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Given this current and looming problem, the UN Summit cannot afford to neglect Alzheimer's and dementias. Several governments have identified this threat and are beginning to work together and plan accordingly.”

Today, more than 36 million people around the world are suffering from Alzheimer’s or related dementias, and by 2050 this number is projected to triple to 115 million. Specifically, the Taskforce hopes the September Summit will make recommendations to the global community regarding increased cooperation in Alzheimer’s disease research, diagnostics, and therapies as well as ways to facilitate the exchange of information in order to develop best practices in comprehensive care to reduce costs for governments and provide support for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.

It is our hope that the United Nations will realize that Alzheimer’s disease is too costly for the global community to be ignored,” said Rep. Markey in separate comments. “We must work together, learn together, and plan together, if we are going to be able to adequately serve our world’s aging population.”

“We seem to be at a precipice now of making great strides on several different fronts,” said Rep. Smith at the hearing. “There is a greater recognition, including in low and middle income countries of the need to address Alzheimer’s as a major public health crisis. We need to pressure international institutions responsible for health issues to recognize dementia as a global health problem.”

Reps. Smith and Markey are House authors of the National Alzheimer's Project Act (N.A.P.A.).  One of the most significant victories in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease in the past three decades, N.A.P.A. provides strategic planning and coordination for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease across the federal government.

In May, Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Chris Smith (R-N.J.), introduced H.R 1897, theAlzheimer’s Breakthrough Act of 2011 . The Breakthrough Act would increase the federal government’s commitment to Alzheimer’s research by requiring the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a strategic plan to expedite therapeutic outcomes for those with or at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and coordinate Alzheimer’s research within the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health and across all Centers and Institutes of the NIH.

Reps. Markey and Smith along with Representatives Michael Burgess (R-Texas.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) also recently introduced H.R. 1386, the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (H.O.P.E.) for Alzheimer’s Act . The H.O.P.E Act would provide Medicare coverage for comprehensive diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease and help improve care and reduce costs by providing information and resources to newly diagnosed patients and their families. Companion legislation, S. 738, has also been introduced in the Senate by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

A copy of the letter to President Deiss can be found HERE .