The federal government announced two new studies on treatments for Alzheimer’s, a new website, and an awareness campaign on Tuesday as part of what it called a comprehensive plan to fight the deadly and incurable brain disease.
The National Institutes of Health will spend $7.9 million to test an insulin nasal spray to see if it might help patients with Alzheimer’s, and will kick in $16 million to a larger study to see if a “magic bullet” drug called a monoclonal antibody can prevent the disease in people at high risk.
“This research holds considerable promise for developing new and targeted approaches to prevention and treatment,” the Health and Human Services Department said in a statement.
“To help accelerate this urgent work, the president’s proposed FY 2013 budget provides a $100 million increase for efforts to combat Alzheimer’s disease. These funds will support additional research ($80 million), improve public awareness of the disease ($4.2 million), support provider education programs ($4.0 million), invest in caregiver support ($10.5 million), and improve data collection ($1.3 million),” HHS said.
Scientists will test the monoclonal antibody, called crenezumab, in a large extended family in Colombia that has a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s. Made by Genentech, the drug is an engineered form of immune-system protein designed to home in on a protein called amyloid that builds up in and damages the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s already affects more than 5 million Americans. The numbers are projected to worsen as the baby boomer generation ages. There is no treatment and no cure, and caring for patients is enormously expensive.
Dr. R. Scott Turner, director of the Georgetown University Medical Center's Memory Disorders Program, called the announcements a step in the right direction.
“We have numerous clinical trials underway to address critical questions in Alzheimer’s, but these studies are moving at a glacial pace because of a lack of study volunteers nationwide,” Turner said in a statement.
“We need more people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families to consider participating in research so that we can speed the completion of studies to find new screening tests, drugs to prevent the disease, and agents to stop its progression,” he added. “The current direct medical costs of Alzheimer’s disease top $100 billion annually, but our overall federal research budget for Alzheimer’s doesn’t even reach $1 billion.”