The latest update to the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease sets an ambitious goal: to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025.
The plan was first developed following the passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act in 2011. That federal law called for a coordinated effort to accelerate research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and to provide better clinical care and services for patients and their families. The resulting framework is an annually updated set of goals focused on prevention, treatment and care.
Dire Need for Treatments
Alzheimer’s affects more than 6 million Americans and costs $355 billion annually, a burden shouldered by patients, caregivers and the nation’s health care system. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the only cause of death among the top 10 without a means to prevent, cure or slow its progression.
Patients, caregivers and advocates were encouraged in 2021 when the Food and Drug Administration approved the first novel therapy for Alzheimer’s disease in nearly two decades. The drug, aducanumab, is one of a new generation of treatments that attack the root cause of the disease – as opposed to treating its symptoms.
Yet aducanumab came under attack by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review even before it was approved. The health economics organization’s rigid assessment framework ignored the potential benefits of the drug and coverage of ICER’s findings have been cited by insurers who wish to restrict use of the medication. Now, ICER is poised to begin a second review of Alzheimer’s therapies. The economists’ findings could, again, taint access before the drugs are FDA approved.
There are other promising treatments in late-stage clinical trials, but future value assessments and proposed coverage limits could delay access to the newest drugs and jeopardize progress toward achieving a key federal goal.
New therapies signal great progress toward more effective treatments. Prevention may also be within reach. Growing evidence suggests that up to 40% of dementia cases could be prevented by addressing risk factors such as hypertension, physical inactivity or depression. In fact, the national plan’s 2021 update includes a new goal about promoting healthy aging to delay onset or slow disease progression.
Although 2025 is only a few short years away, the finish line is not yet in sight. Now is the time to accelerate progress toward realizing the vision to prevent, delay and better manage Alzheimer’s disease, and clear any roadblocks that stand in the way.