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Government pledges to spend more money on Alzheimer’s research – but is it enough?

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The Obama administration announced Tuesday they want to spend more than half a billion dollars on Alzheimer’s research next year in hopes of finding a cure for the devastating neurodegenerative disease.  

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $80 million dollars – in addition to the $450 million the National Institutes of Health already spends – in his budget proposal next week, but the NIH will immediately devote an extra $50 million in 2013.

I’m glad the Obama administration is paying attention to the approximately 5.4 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s.  However, I still think the national commitment is falling short of what is really needed to fight this disease and create new therapies capable of making a difference.

I also think it’s important to guide these federal dollars to the right research centers – especially in these tight financial times. As you may know, I’ve been reporting on the great breakthroughs Dr. Paul Greengard, a Nobel Laureate from Rockefeller University, has made over the past several years, which have substantially improved our understanding of the mechanics of the cellular degeneration that leads to Alzheimer’s.

I know that politics sometimes interferes with science, and certainly people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease do not have the representation they deserve in Washington, D.C.  But I’m glad we have at least started this conversation.

I asked Kent Karosen, president of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, what he thought of the latest announcement.

“We have to applaud the Obama administration,” Karosen said.  “This is certainly a good start.”

For a disease that costs the country $180 billion dollars a year in total, Karosen said it is imperative the government funds more research.  Currently only 1 percent of the research requests made for Alzheimer’s are federally funded, while $3 billion dollars are being spent in the research of other diseases.

“[While government funding remains low] the private and public sectors must work together to find good avenues to support research,” Karosen recommended.  

Because Alzheimer’s affects so many people – not just the more than 5 million afflicted with the disease, but also their family and caretakers – there is a great need for more government and private support, he explained.

I sincerely hope these promises from the government do come true, and that the conversation on this topic never ends – at least until we finally find an effective cure.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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