Fact Sheets

  • The Basics of the Alzheimer’s Health Crisis

    What is Alzheimer's disease?

    Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and eventually is fatal. It is also the most common cause of dementia in older people. [1]

    Who has Alzheimer's disease?

    Experts suggest that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and there are over 15 million unpaid caregivers of Alzheimer's patients within the US. The number of individuals with Alzheimer's is expected to almost triple, approaching 13.8 million, in the next few decades. [2] Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death among Americans. [3]

    Alzheimer's has a disproportionate impact on members of the African American and Latino communities, who are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. African Americans are about twice as likely, and Latinos are about 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease than are Caucasians for reasons not yet understood. [4]

    What causes Alzheimer's disease?

    Scientists still have not determined the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease, but studies on plaque and tangles of the nerves within the brain are being conducted. Most people develop "late-onset" Alzheimer's in their 60s. There is no cure for Alzheimer's yet, but there are prescriptions that may temporarily slow the progression of the disease. [5]

    Is there any current legislation to address Alzheimer's disease?

    A number of pieces of legislation have been introduced. The Spending Reductions Through Innovations in Therapies Agenda - or SPRINT Act - sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) seeks to discover and develop safe and effective drugs, biologics, devices, and diagnostics for Alzheimer's and other high-cost chronic conditions and to deliver them to patients as quickly as possible. To achieve such breakthroughs that will improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs, SPRINT seeks to spur discovery of potential therapies and to expedite review of these therapies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    A modified Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act of 2011 sponsored by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Ed Markey (D-MA) has been reintroduced. [12] This legislation would produce a comprehensive Alzheimer's strategic plan to accelerate discovery of therapies, also recognizing the need for greater public/private partnerships.

    The Health, Outcomes, Planning and Education (H.O.P.E.) for Alzheimer's Act (S. 738/ H.R. 1386), sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Reps. Markey and Smith would provide Medicare reimbursement to increase the detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.[13] The legislation would ensure Americans have access to services under Medicare to diagnose the disease.

    The Making Investments Now in Dementia or MIND Act (H.R. 610) is sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and would authorize the U.S. Treasury to sell bonds whose proceeds would support Alzheimer's research at NIH. [14]


    • [1] National Institute on Aging. "Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet"; July 2011. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/adfact.htm
    • [2] Alzheimer's Association. "Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer's Disease: A National Imperative," 2010. Available at: http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/trajectory.pdf
    • [3] Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2010. National vital statistics reports, vol. 60, no. 4. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2012.
    • [8] The Alzheimer's Study Group. "A National Alzheimer's Strategic Plan: The Report of the Alzheimer's Study Group"; March 25, 2009.
    • [10] National Institutes of Health. "NIH Budget"; May 18, 2010. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/about/budget.htm#note
    • [12] OpenCongress "Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act of 2011." Available at: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h1897/show
    • [13] OpenCongress "H.O.P.E for Alzheimer's Act." Available at: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s738/show
    • [14] OpenCongress "MIND Act." Available at: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h610/show
  • The Cost of Alzheimers and the Price of Inaction

    What are the costs associated with Alzheimer's disease?

    Every year, American taxpayers spend $236 billion on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. If substantial progress is not made in stopping Alzheimer's, spending will reach $1.1 trillion in today's dollars by 2050. [8] Within ten years, we will spend more than $2 trillion on care for Alzheimer’s victims.

    There are currently 15.9 million Americans who currently provide care for a person with Alzheimer’s, losing $15,000 on average in annual income.

    The average annual payments per person for health care, services, and Medicare for beneficiaries aged 65 or older with Alzheimer's is $47,752 which is more than three times greater than Medicare pays for individuals without Alzheimer's and dementia. The reason for this cost difference is that the loss of memory due to the disease makes it more likely the victim will otherwise not be able to care for himself. More than 50% of nursing home residents have Alzheimer's disease. [7]

    Who funds Alzheimer's research?

    The National Institute of Health (NIH) invests over $31.2 billion annually in medical research for the American people. In FY 2015, about $589 million was devoted to research related to Alzheimer's Disease. The estimated allocation for FY 2016 is $910 million. [9] ,[10]

    The Price of Inaction

    In August 2011, the challenge of lowering the national debt by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years caused the United States to come within one day of financial default. No one noted during the debate, however, that over the same 10-year period, the country will be forced to spend another $2 trillion caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease.

    The cost of this care will negate any gains made from government deficit reduction efforts. For the health of our nation’s economy and seniors, we cannot afford or accept this two-steps-forward, two-steps-back approach.

    Can we stop Alzheimer’s by 2020?

    Yes. The research community believes it is possible to prevent or control the disease within ten years with a disciplined strategy that is adequately funded. To succeed, we need a political strategy that ensures that elected officials and lawmakers make fighting Alzheimer’s a national priority and implement a clear plan for a cure.

    UsAgainstAlzheimer’s believes strongly that through bipartisan support for innovative ideas that cut through government bureaucracy and streamline funding for research, we can end Alzheimer’s as we know it by 2020.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease Projections

  • NIH Research Funding

  • Change in Number of Deaths

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