First National Action Plan for Alzheimer's Disease Passed Into Law

Caroline Cassels

January 05, 2011

January 5, 2011 — On January 4 President Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) into law, providing the United States with its first national plan to fight the disease, which, left unchecked, is threatening to bankrupt the country's healthcare system.

Reaction from the Alzheimer's Association has been swift, with association leaders applauding the move to put a coordinated national strategy in place to address the many challenges of Alzheimer's disease (AD), which is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is among the fastest growing — increasing by more than 50% from 2000 to 2007.

"Given the devastation experienced by millions of families because of this disease and the staggering economic costs, particularly to Medicare and Medicaid, we must have an effective strategy now. The fact that Alzheimer's is the only one of the top 10 causes of death without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow it underscores the critical need for the swift, aggressive implementation of this legislation," Harry Johns, president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer's Association said in a statement.

Under NAPA, an interagency council will work with the US Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide a full assessment of what needs to be done to address the threat of AD on multiple fronts, including care, research, and support.

Left unchecked, the Alzheimer's Association estimates that current economic burden of AD will skyrocket as the bottleneck of baby boomers ages through the system and more people than ever become affected by AD.

This "silver tsunami," as it has been called, could well push total care costs for AD to more than $1 trillion by 2050.

This is in addition to the caregiver burden, which can take a serious toll on the physical mental and financial well-being of family members.

"We need transformative, cost-effective strategic solutions to tackle a national public health emergency with widespread social and economic consequences. NAPA will help to put the nation on the right track, and we commend the Obama Administration for recognizing this," Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association vice president of public policy, said in a statement.