WASHINGTON - Effective treatments for Alzheimer's by 2025? That's the target the government is eyeing as it develops a national strategy to tackle what could become the defining disease of a rapidly aging population.
It's an ambitious goal -- and Tuesday, advisers to the government stressed that millions of families need better help now to care for their loved ones.
"What's really important here is a comprehensive plan that deals with the needs of people who already have the disease," said Alzheimer's Association President Harry Johns, one of the advisers.
Already families approach the advisory committee "reminding us of the enormity of our task," said Dr. Ron Petersen, an Alzheimer's specialist at the Mayo Clinic who chairs the panel.
The Obama administration is developing the first National Alzheimer's Plan to address the medical and social problems of dementia -- not just better treatments but better day-to-day care for dementia patients and caregivers, too.
The plan still is being written, with the advisory panel's input. But a draft of its goals sets 2025 as a target date to have effective treatments and ways to delay, if not completely prevent, the illness.
Some advisory members said that's not aggressive enough and that 2020 would be a better target date.
"We want to be bold," said Dr. Jennifer Manly of Columbia University. "We think the difference of five years is incredibly meaningful."
An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's or similar dementias.
And the disease is growing steadily as the population ages. By 2050, 13 million to 16 million Americans are projected to have Alzheimer's, costing $1 trillion in medical expenditures.
Today's treatments only temporarily ease some dementia symptoms, and work to find better ones has been frustratingly slow. Scientists now know that Alzheimer's is brewing for years before symptoms appear, and they're hunting for ways to stall the disease.
by Lauran Neergaard Associated Press Jan. 17, 2012 11:54 PM
U.S. sets 2025 as target for Alzheimer's solution
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