(CBS) — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, is proposing a major funding increase for Alzheimer’s research.
Clinton wants to spent $2 billion a year to eliminate the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined.
The costs of treating the disease could top one trillion dollars by 2050, nearly one-third of the entire Medicare budget.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that curing rather than just treating diseases like Alzheimer’s has been a priority for a Chicagoan who’s a longtime ally of the Clintons. So when we got word of the Clinton announcement, Jay went looking for him.
Lou Weisbach co-founded the American Center for Cures and Levine literally caught him on his way into a meeting at Clinton headquarters. Weisbach counts her as one of his earliest supporters. He spoke with CBS 2 via satellite from New York.
“I’ve discussed it with her many times through the years, and the beauty of this is, from my perspective, is Hillary cared deeply, she’s not just doing this for political expediency, and so I’m proud of fact she’s stepping forward and providing leadership we need on this issue,” he said.
Weisbach and the Clintons go way back. Hillary, he tells me, threw her support behind the American Center for Cures right after 9-11.
Campaigning for votes in Iowa Tuesday, Hillary Clinton proposed doubling the federal Alzheimer’s research budget that was already scheduled to increase by 60 percent next year to nearly a billion dollars.
But Northwestern’s Dr. Marsel Mesulam, a world-renowned researcher in Alzheimer’s disease, says even that may not be enough.
“It depends on what you mean by cure,” he said. “If you take someone who’s really impaired with a lot of cognitive and memory problems, the idea of something that is going to take that away and making that person normal is science fiction.”
Dr. Mesulam has been working to find a cure for this disease of the brain which has robbed more than five million Americans of their memories, with another seven million baby boomers at risk, understands why Clinton did what she did.
“I think it’s politically very smart to make a proposal that will increase the funding for this area of research,” said Dr. Mesulam.
Weisbach maintains it’s more than just political.
“There are people in both parties that are understanding that the real way to resolve the health care crisis is through prevention and cure,” he said.
Weisbach says spending $6 billion a year would pay huge dividends. Dr. Mesulam says even that might not be enough. Curing Alzheimer’s by 2025 all agree is certainly worth the effort, but it still might be an impossible dream.