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A Bill to Provide a Grant for Alzheimer’s Research

A Bill to Provide a Grant for Alzheimer’s Research

Background

According the Alzheimer’s Association —

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

  • Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.
    Learn more: What Is DementiaResearch and Progress
  • Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).
    Learn more: Younger/Early-Onset Alzheimer’sRisk Factors 
  • Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
    Learn more: 10 Warning SignsStages of Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.
    Learn more: TreatmentsTreatment HorizonPreventionClinical Trials

The National Institute on Aging identifies the health problems created by alzheimers

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.

It is easy to find evidence advocating more research. Web MD explains:

The scientists behind the new report note that, until recently, there were clinical trials of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease in which up to one-third of symptomatic participants did not have the particular disease-related brain changes targeted by the experimental drug being tested.

“With the aging of the global population, and the ever-escalating cost of care for people with dementia, new methods are desperately needed to improve the process of therapy development and increase the likelihood of success,” report co-author Maria Carrillo, chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, said in an association news release.

Some limitations of this bill

This bill provides a grant of up to $150,000 for organizations that want to research alzhiemers.

One. the bill allows any organization to apply for the grant, it doesn’t even have to be a medical research organization.  The US National Speech & Debate Association could apply for this grant and say they will seek a cure for Alzheimers.

Second, there aren’t any standards to measure any organizations progress against.  An organization could simply take the $150,000, fail to do anything, and the government couldn’t do anything about it.

Third, there would be a lot of fraud. Not only would government organizations not be able to penalize any random organization that applied for this and didn’t even try to find a cure, but people would just start creating businesses run by individual people and apply for the money. Since there is no limit to the number of businesses that any person can create, people could create ten businesses and get $1.5 million.

Fourth, the bill is funded by taking $ from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). DHHS funds many great things and that money would be lost.  Check out this Wikipedia entry for a list of everything the DHHS funds and then do some research on the value of the different programs. These programs could be lost to funding trade-offs.

Arguments

Pro Arguments

Alzheimers is a terrible disease and more funding is needed to find a cure.

Con Arguments

Research funding is used productively

Private sector funding generally works better and doesn’t have the restraints (fetal tissue research ban) that federal funding has.

The funding is costly and trades-off with other funding.

Pro

Investment in Alzheimer’s 16x lower than oncology despite ‘exploding public health crisis’ (2019). Investment in Alzheimer’s 16x lower than oncology despite ‘exploding public health crisis’ Research into Alzheimer’s disease is suffering from a chronic lack of investment, after clinical trial failures across the field, a report by BIO suggests.

Here’s why we should put more money into Alzheimer’s research (2018) Scientists still don’t fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s or how and why it progresses. Expanding this understanding entails the kind of basic research that typically gets done in government and academic research labs. U.S. pharmaceutical companies are amazing engines of innovation, but the compounds they develop often work on targets that have already been identified somewhere else. And, researchers need to find more targets. Alzheimer’s drugs that have reached human clinical trials have failed at a high rate — about 99.6 percent since 2003 according to one analysis. The five Alzheimer’s treatments that are currently available only treat symptoms, without preventing, slowing or reversing the disease. According to Dr. Howard Fillit, Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), translating research about disease biology into treatments for chronic disease often takes 30 or more years. Today’s breakthrough cancer therapies are built on yesterday’s federal investments in basic science through entities like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute. Earlier this year, Congress passed a budget-busting spending bill that featured at least one silver lining: The NIH received its biggest funding boost in 15 years, including a 30 percent increase in Alzheimer’s research funding. But according to Dr. Petsko, NIH funding for Alzheimer’s and Dementia research — at about $1.4 billion annually — still lags well behind what researchers need and what other diseases already get, with AIDS getting $3 billion and cancer $6 billion. More federal research funding for Alzheimer’s would attract more top-tier scientific talent to the field. As Dr. Petsko said, “Researchers follow the grant dollars.”

It’s Time for the Alzheimer’s Moonshot (2016)

Alzheimer’s Incidence is Rising, Not Falling, a Researcher Says (2018)

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE IS THE GREATEST THREAT TO HEALTHY AGING (2014)

The argument against crowdfunding Alzheimer’s disease research (2019)

WITHOUT ACTION, ALZHEIMER’S WILL OVERWHELM FEDERAL BUDGET BY 2050 (2016)

Con

The Alzheimer’s gamble: NIH tries to turn billions in new funding into treatment for deadly brain disease (2018). This article says billions of dollars have already been appropriate for alzheimer’s research.  The lobbying began to pay off as early as 2012 when then–HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a press conference to announce modest increases in funding for Alzheimer’s research. That gained the attention of some scientists, including Baker, who submitted his grant proposal to NIA in 2015. However, the big ramp up began only in 2016 after Obama and lawmakers struck a deal to lift federal spending caps and Congress boosted NIH’s overall budget after a decade of stagnation. That fiscal year, the share of NIH money going to Alzheimer’s shot up 56% to $986 million, including $57 million for separate research on three related dementias, such as vascular dementia. By now, 3 years of such funding boosts have transformed NIA—once a midsize NIH institute and “almost a backwater,” as one official put it on a blog—to the fifth-largest of NIH’s 27 institutes and centers with a $2.6 billion overall budget. “Our continued investment will pay dividends for the millions of families affected by Alzheimer’s,” Collins said in a statement to Science.

The Impact of Research Grant Funding on Scientific Productivity (2011). This article says that we don’t need to appropriate new money because researchers always find money in other places. In this paper, we estimate the impact of receiving an NIH grant on subsequent publications and citations. Our sample consists of all applications (unsuccessful as well as successful) to the NIH from 1980 to 2000 for standard research grants (R01s). Both OLS and IV estimates show that receipt of an NIH research grant (worth roughly $1.7 million) leads to only one additional publication over the next five years, which corresponds to a 7 percent increase. The limited impact of NIH grants is consistent with a model in which the market for research funding is competitive, so that the loss of an NIH grant simply causes researchers to shift to another source of funding.

Why the Medical Research Grant System Could Be Costing Us Great Ideas (2018). This article argues the current medical research system fails to produce many gains.

The Failure of Centralized Scientific Planning (2008). Government-driven research fails –There is much more controversy and evidence to savor in Sex, Science and Profits, e.g., his argument that patents should be abolished except for those covering pharmaceuticals and that technological innovation often precedes scientific discovery. Everyone now agrees that centralized planning fails to produce economic progress. Kealey may well be on to something when he argues that centralized planning also fails to produce scientific progress.

Trump puts an end to vital research into cancer, HIV, and Alzheimer’s (2019). This article says that scientists doing alzheimer’s research with fetal tissue cannot gain access to federal funds.  This can be a workability argument against the bill, because if these organizations take the money they cannot research with fetal tissue, which is needed to solve. In fact, you could argue that it is better for them to get the money from other places that aren’t restricted by these funds.

NIH funding mechanism “totally broken,” says Stanford researcher (2012). Stanford researcher John Ioannidis, MD, DSci, who is well-known for his critiques of much current scientific methodology, has now turned his sights on the National Institutes of Health. He and a colleague, Joshua Nicholson from Virginia Tech, have published an analysis (subscription required)  in today’s Nature questioning the way the organization funds research proposals. Ionannidis and Nicholson argue that the peer-review process, in which groups called study sections review and rank research applications submitted by their colleagues, is inherently flawed and encourages “conformity, if not mediocrity.” The result? Only 40 percent of scientists with highly cited papers are listed as the principal investigators on NIH grants. That is, those scientists whose peers value their insights and research most highly in their field are often not receiving federal support for that work.

Investing in Bad Science (2013). This article says the federal government funds wasteful medical research, though it is not specific to alzheimers.

Philanthropic Funding Makes Waves in Basic Science (2017).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government agencies demonstrate an almost innate wariness of uncertain outcomes, says Gerald Fischbach, Distinguished Scientist and Fellow at the Simons Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds basic science. In fact, many government/federal agencies now require that scientists state in their proposals how their research will be “transformative.” This push comes from continued fiscal belt-tightening that limits the number of applicants government science agencies, especially the NIH, can fund, Fischbach notes. “When the study sections can give out from two to five grants each cycle out of 150 [applications], there’s a real bias against risky research.”

Private funders, on the other hand, have the freedom to build longer time lines into the projects they fund, which means returns on investment need not be immediate. As a result, philanthropic money is often essential to getting uncertain projects off the ground, with government dollars coming in at a later stage in the research once a clearer finish line emerges.