Federal funding for age-related diseases and illnesses is declining, report finds

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Automatic 2% Medicare cuts begin
Automatic 2% Medicare cuts begin

One of the realities of the national budget crisis is that government funding for age-related health conditions — particularly Alzheimer's — is drying up, says a new report from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

Congress cut National Institutes of Health funding by 1% this year; the report states NIH spends about $469 million on Alzheimer's research. Officials there say that for every six grants they receive requesting funding for medical research, they can only fund one project.

Researchers say that for Alzheimer's investigators to get more dollars requires other serious diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, to lose out. The report finds that the National Institute on Aging receives 3.6 cents for every dollar Congress sends to the NIH, compared with three to four times that much for heart disease and cancer.

Costs for Alzheimer's treatments are expected to increase dramatically. Currently, 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's and studies estimate that health and nursing home expenditures for it cost more than $170 billion a year, much of which is paid by Medicare and Medicaid. In testimony before a Senate appropriations committee, NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said that by 2050, more than 13 million Americans are projected to have Alzheimer's, and expenditures are expected to reach $1 trillion.

The Alzheimer's Foundation and other groups are lobbying together for an additional $300 million to bump the National Institute on Aging's current budget to $1.4 billion.