Why Clinton and Trump are both talking about Alzheimer’s research

The disease costs taxpayers $236 billion annually, and politicians on both sides of the aisle are taking notice.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential health platform includes detailed proposals for a handful of policy areas. One of them is Alzheimer’s disease. Even Donald Trump, widely criticized for running an anti-science campaign, has said Alzheimer’s research is a “top priority.” Why is this issue gaining traction in the 2016 campaign? To find out, we’ve turned to Robert Egge, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, for his analysis:

RG: Hillary Clinton has a detailed Alzheimer’s agenda in her election platform. What do you think of her proposals in this area?

Robert Egge: We are happy that Alzheimer’s disease is a priority issue for Secretary Clinton. Her plan proposes spending $2 billion annually on Alzheimer’s disease research at the NIH. This proposal is consistent with what leading experts have said is needed to meet the first goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease – to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.

And, importantly her plan addresses not just the need for increased federal funding for research, but also seeks support for the nation’s more than 15 million caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, her plan includes coverage for comprehensive Alzheimer’s care and support planning services consistent with the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, a top priority for the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.

Prior to the release of her plan in December, our staff held briefings on Alzheimer’s disease and to provide important background information including the latest statistics with members of the Clinton campaign team. This briefing offer was made multiple times to all major party candidates who entered the 2016 Presidential Election during the primary season.

RG:  Donald Trump has also said tackling Alzheimer’s is a “top priority.” Why do you think Alzheimer’s in particular is getting so much attention from both sides of the aisle this election cycle?

Egge: We are very encouraged that Mr. Trump has stated Alzheimer’s disease would be a top priority for his administration. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. Everyone with a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, a devastating and fatal disease. We believe Alzheimer’s is getting attention this election cycle because of the facts.

More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and another 15 million Americans are providing care. It’s the most expensive disease in the nation at a cost of $236 billion annually to taxpayers, with the majority – $160 billion – coming from Medicare and Medicaid. So this is an issue that attracts a wide-range of candidates and voters.

We’ve also seen an increase in attention to the issue in Congress. Last year, Congress passed a historic increase of $350 million for Alzheimer’s disease research at the National Institutes of Health, bringing the total spending to $991 million. Today, an additional $400 million increase approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and a $350 million proposed increase by the House Appropriations Committee are pending before Congress for the 2017 fiscal year. If either is signed into law later this year, it would mark an important milestone in Alzheimer’s research – bringing us past the halfway mark toward the funding level experts agree is necessary to end this epidemic.

Want to learn more about the current state of Alzheimer’s research? Read our interview with Keith N. Fargo, Director of Scientific Programs for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Featured image courtesy of Nathaniel F