WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly passed a proposal authored by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., to create prize-based competitions to encourage more public-private collaboration in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Wicker’s bill, the “Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s (EUREKA) Act,” is part of the “21stCentury Cures Act.” Wicker served as Presiding Officer of the Senate during the final vote of 94-5. The legislative package now goes to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.
This legislation is just the first step toward advancing medical research, according to the senator.
“This is a world-changing piece of legislation,” Sen. Wicker said. “This major step toward curing diseases and advancing health-care research rivals the legislation that founded the National Institutes of Health. I know that many Americans, including my family, have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease. I am pleased that my ‘EUREKA’ plan to help encourage Alzheimer’s research through prize competitions is part of the ‘Cures Act.’ These prizes would pay only for success, and they would complement current funding. As we enter this holiday season, patients, advocates, and providers have an extra reason to rejoice as this bill heads to the President’s desk.”
“With their ability to inspire citizen-innovators and incentivize new research and development, prizes have the potential to revolutionize breakthroughs in health-care diagnostics and treatment,” said Chris Frangione, Vice President of Prize Development for XPRIZE. “We applaud Senator Wicker and his efforts to include biomedical prize competitions in the 21st Century Cures Act. Such prizes can help agencies like NIH leverage innovators within and beyond the medical community, and energize efforts to combat devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s and related dementia.”
“Alzheimer’s Mississippi applauds the passage of Senator Wicker’s EUREKA Act as an innovative approach to reach new milestones in Alzheimer’s research and caregiver support,” said Patty Dunn, CEO of Alzheimer’s Mississippi. “Senator Wicker is a champion for Alzheimer’s policy, effecting change by advancing increases in research funding and elevating access to care and support services, on behalf of the 52,000 Mississippians living with Alzheimer’s and their 206,000 caregivers.”
The proposal would not replace other funding and research initiatives for Alzheimer’s but add another route for breakthroughs. The bill would require the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish prize challenges to combat our nation’s most devastating and costliest diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
Prize challenges enable government sponsors to pay only when a prize team achieves specified goals or milestones. Although funds will be authorized and reserved for awards, prizes will only be granted when teams achieve clearly defined objectives, making the “EUREKA Act” a cost-effective tool to spur leading-edge research.
NIH has set a goal of curing Alzheimer’s by 2025. Today, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America and has a 100 percent fatality rate. According to a report released earlier this year, caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is estimated to cost the United States $226 billion in 2015, with one in five Medicare dollars spent on an Alzheimer’s victim. Unless a cure is found for Alzheimer’s, treatment costs are expected to grow to an estimated $1.1 trillion by 2050. In Mississippi, 12 percent of senior citizens have Alzheimer’s. The number of victims is expected to rise 27.5 percent by 2025, increasing from 51,000 to 65,000.
“EUREKA” is supported by more than 70 organizations, including the XPRIZE Foundation, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Association, Eli Lilly and Company, BrightFocus Foundation, and the MIND Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Wicker was also successful in adding the following health-care proposals to the “21st Century Cures Act:”
- Speeding up the implementation of the “National Pediatric Research Network Act,” which became law in 2013, by requiring NIH to follow through on creating a national pediatric research network to expand access to clinical trials and treatments for children, especially those with rare diseases;
- Increasing transparency and accountability within the drug and treatment review process, strengthening patient participation in FDA decisions; and
- Establishing beneficiary equity in the Medicare hospital readmissions program.
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