The Obama administration plans to spend an additional $156 million over the next two years to help find an effective treatment for Alzheimer's, a fatal brain-wasting disease that affects more than 5 million Americans.
The White House said on Tuesday it will spend an extra $50 million this year, and it will seek an extra $80 million in fiscal 2013 to bolster Alzheimer's research. Obama also plans to spend an additional $26 million in programs to support people who care for Alzheimer's patients.
The spending increase is intended to help make good on a U.S. target set last month to find a way to treat or prevent Alzheimer's by 2025, a goal some experts fear is too ambitious.
Current drugs help manage symptoms but so far, no therapy can stop the progression of Alzheimer's, which can start with vague memory loss and confusion before progressing to complete disability and death.
Experts predict that without an effective treatment, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's will double by 2050 and related healthcare costs could soar to more than $1 trillion a year.
"These projections are simply staggering", National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Colins said in a statement. "This new funding will accelerate NIH's efforts to use the power of science to develop new ways to helping people with Alzheimer's disease and those at risk."
The $50 million cash infusion this year brings the U.S. Alzheimer's research budget to half a billion dollars, an improvement, advocates say, but still far short of what the nation spends on other chronic diseases.
The spending will support the nation's first comprehensive plan to fight Alzheimer's disease, an effort mandated by the National Alzheimer's Project Act signed into law by President Barack Obama last year.