Wicker unveils bill to fight alzheimer’s

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 1, 2015

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and a prime opportunity to draw attention to this devastating disease. It is estimated that Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans, including some 51,000 Mississippians. The toll in human suffering reaches even further, as families watch loved ones struggle and ultimately succumb to this fatal disease.
On Sept. 22, I introduced the “EUREKA Act,” which stands for “Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s.” My bill would create prize competitions for research breakthroughs, such as the identification of Alzheimer’s biomarkers or the repurposing of existing drugs for treatment. “EUREKA” would not replace other funding and research but add to efforts aimed at meeting the national goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s by 2025. It would offer a way to harness both public and private funds toward Alzheimer’s research.
A Proven History of Competitions
America has always been the home of groundbreaking innovation, and my bill seeks to channel this pioneering spirit with prize-able benchmarks that can bring us closer to a cure. Prize competitions are a proven strategy. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh won a $25,000 prize for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. More than 300 years ago, Great Britain established a prize for determining a ship’s longitude, resulting in John Harrison’s marine clock. The “America COMPETES Act” has given federal agencies the broad authority to conduct prize challenges. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has already completed dozens of them.
Moreover, prizes pay only for success. Under “EUREKA,” authorized government funds would expire if no prizes are awarded by 2025.
Great Potential for Long-Term Savings
Breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s would not only make a monumental difference in people’s lives but could also drastically impact federal spending.
At a cost of $226 billion this year, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America. According to the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit group, the direct costs of Alzheimer’s are greater than those associated with cancer and heart disease combined.
In fact, one in five Medicare dollars will be spent on Alzheimer’s this year.
These numbers are expected to skyrocket in the coming years. By 2050, Alzheimer’s could cost $1.1 trillion annually, increasing Medicare and Medicaid spending on the disease by 500 percent.
With the federal debt at $18 trillion and rising, efforts to fight Alzheimer’s could lead to significant long-term savings.
Broad Support From Lawmakers, Researchers
I am pleased that my bill has already received Democratic, Republican, and Independent cosponsors in the Senate.
It also has the support of researchers, including those at the MIND Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, as well as organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association, Us Against Alzheimer’s, the XPRIZE Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, BrightFocus Foundation, Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease, and Eli Lilly and Company.
It is my hope that “EUREKA” will be a game-changer in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Americans have never shied away from the world’s most difficult problems.
We need the best and brightest minds searching for an Alzheimer’s cure.
The possibilities are truly endless when people with all kinds of expertise work together.

By Senator Roger Wicker

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox