WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Thursday said that his proposal to create prize-based competitions to encourage more public-private collaboration in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, is close to becoming law. Wicker’s bill, the “Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s (EUREKA) Act,” is part of the bicameral, bipartisan “21st Century Cures Act,” which passed the House of Representatives today by a vote of 392-26. The Senate could pass the legislation as early as December 6.
Wicker said this development is necessary for healthcare and the economy.
“Unless a cure is found for Alzheimer’s, treatment costs are expected to grow to an estimated $1.1 trillion by 2050,” Wicker said. “To put that in perspective, that is almost twice the amount of our nation’s current annual defense budget. The human cost on the other hand is incalculable. I have repeatedly said that it is time for an Alzheimer’s moonshot. We need to harness the power of the world’s best minds to find a cure and leave no stone left unturned.”
In a statement released by Wicker’s office, the proposal would not replace other funding and research initiatives for Alzheimer’s but add another route for breakthroughs. The bill would therefore require the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish prize challenges informed by the research milestones contained in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease.
According to Wicker, 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. Currently, 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. 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 said to be 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 also 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 re-admissions program.