Senate Resolution 74—Declaring That Achieving the Primary Goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease of the Department of Health and Human Services to Prevent and Effectively Treat…by Senator Amy Klobuchar
Posted on 2015-02-12
KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I come to the Senate floor to join my
friend and colleague from Maine, Senator Collins, who has for so long
been a leader on this issue. I thank her for that and thank her for her
very strong remarks.
This is a horrible disease. Senator Collins did a very good job of going through the costs to our country. Mr. President, 5.2 million Americans are already living with Alzheimer's, and by 2050 an estimated 13.5 million Americans will be living with the disease. Also, $226 billion is being spent in 2015 caring for individuals with Alzheimer's, and by 2050 costs will reach $1.1 trillion.
Those are the numbers. They are pretty stunning numbers, but I think we all know we are not just here to talk about the numbers. We are here to talk about the people. Every single Senator in this Chamber knows someone who is suffering from Alzheimer's or someone who has died from Alzheimer's. So this resolution, yes, it is about the numbers and being smarter about how we spend our money to prevent this horrible disease from occurring in the first place, but it is also for that daughter who goes to see her mom every day in the assisted living care facility and with each and every day her mom's memory slips away to the point where she does not remember who she is anymore.
It is for that wife who has valiantly cared for her husband as it gets harder and harder and harder as he goes wandering around the neighborhood and gets lost. She does not know if she can leave him at home anymore. That is what this is about. Every single person in this Chamber and every single person back home knows of someone who suffers from this disease.
The only way to stem the tide of this devastating disease is through, as the great Senator from Maine mentioned, through research. Yes, a lot of that research is going on in Minnesota, both at the University of Minnesota and at the Mayo Clinic. If we were able to delay the onset of Alzheimer's by just 5 years, similar to the effect that anticholesterol drugs have had on preventing heart disease, we would be able to significantly cut the government's spending on Alzheimer's care, but more importantly we would be able to give these families extra years, extra time, less time battling this disease.
We all know the answers to Alzheimer's will not just drop out of the sky. If that was true, it would have been cured a long time ago. It will take dedicated scientists, advanced research initiatives, and skilled doctors with knowledge of the disease to conduct trials and care for as many patients as possible until we find a cure.
That is why we are coming together for this important resolution, which resolves simply that the Senate will strive to double the funding the United States spends on Alzheimer's research in 2016 and will develop a plan to meet the target of $2 billion a year in Alzheimer's research funding over the next 5 years.
As Senator Collins mentioned, this effort is led on the national level by Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Minnesota native and a leading researcher. He agrees this is the time to move forward to get this research done. What kind of research are we talking about? I remember first hearing about some of the [[Page S1006]] work Mayo had done and realizing they were focusing on trying to identify this disease early to be able to figure out if people were getting it early.
I thought: That is great, but how does that help? They still have the disease. What I learned is the earlier they can identify the disease, then the earlier they can start those trials so they can tell what is working or not. If they wait too long to identify the disease, it is nearly impossible to tell what kind of potential cures work and what do not.
This is a very important part of this initiative, which is to be able to immediately identify what those risk factors are when they think someone actually has Alzheimer's. Two years ago the United States launched the BRAIN Initiative, which is a national research effort to map the human brain in hopes of finding new ways to prevent and cure brain diseases. Similar to the Human Genome Project, I think we can expect this initiative to truly be a game-changer that stimulates the next generation of scientific development.
There is always more knowledge we need to get. There are always more treatments to discover. There are more diseases to cure. That is why it is so important that we continue funding and actually increase funding to the National Institutes of Health. Earlier this year I introduced, with Senator Durbin and others, a bill to boost funding for NIH by 5 percent a year and also other key Federal research agencies. The American Cures Act would reverse the trend of declining Federal investment in medical research and fuel the next generation of biomedical discoveries.
I care a lot about this. During the government shutdown I will never forget Senator Collins once again led the effort to find our way out of that with 14 of us in a bipartisan effort. I gave my entire salary to NIH because I wanted to make the point that every day we go without developing that cure for Alzheimer's, without supporting our scientists who are doing that work, is another day where someone else dies of this disease. It is another loved one we lose.
Another effort I think is very important when we look at this is precision medicine. We should be supporting efforts to further the field of precision medicine, which holds the promise of revolutionizing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. By better understanding genetic variations within diseases such as Alzheimer's, we can develop targeted, more effective treatments.
Of course caregivers are the last thing I wish to talk about. If you know someone with Alzheimer's, then you also know their family member or their friend who is taking care of them. Many of the caregivers have children themselves. That is why they are called the sandwich generation. They are literally sandwiched between taking care of their own children and taking care of their aging mother or father.
Just as we addressed the needs of moms and dads in the 1970s, started working on things such as childcare benefits, we must now address the needs of our working sons and daughters and those who are simply devoting their lives to taking care of an aging relative, someone with Alzheimer's. This goes on every day. People have decided to quit their jobs or they have to decide to take a different job or they have to decide to go part time simply to take care of their loved one.
In 2013 more than 15 million family members and friends cared for someone with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, often at the expense of their own jobs and their own well-being. That is why I am continuing to work on legislation called the Americans Giving Care to Elders Act that would give family caregivers a tax credit and other assistance to help alleviate the financial burdens that come with caring for a loved one.
So these are some ideas, but we know at its core the best thing to do is to stop this terrible disease from the beginning. That means living up to the expectations the people of this country have for us; that is, to do what is best for them; that is, to put forward the dollars we need to do the research.
I know some great doctors in Minnesota and across the country who will put that money to good use.
Let's go forward, let's cure this disease, and we call on the Senate to pass the resolution Senator Collins and I are submitting.