By Luciana Lopez
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday announced a slate of proposals to battle Alzheimer's disease and seek a cure by 2025, including an increase in funding for research on the disease and related disorders.
Clinton called for a decade-long investment of $2 billion per year for research, which her campaign called a fourfold increase over last year's $586 million.
The proposal could help boost research into an illness that has not only pressured the middle class families Clinton has made a centerpiece of her campaign, but is expected to weigh substantially on public spending as the U.S. population ages.
"We owe it to the millions of families who stay up at night worrying about their loved ones afflicted by this terrible disease and facing the hard reality of the long goodbye to make research investments that will prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible by 2025,” Clinton said in a statement.
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that eventually destroys the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. More than 5 million Americans are estimated to have the disease, which the National Institute on Aging said is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
On a conference call with reporters, the Clinton campaign pointed to the expected growth in spending on Alzheimer's by government health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid.
A researcher on the call, Rudolph Tanzi of Harvard Medical School, also detailed the recent progress in medical research that has improved the chances for finding treatment or even a cure.
"Our single bottleneck has been funding," he said, calling his area of research a "budget-constrained, not a knowledge-constrained field."
The $2 billion also could include research on related dementias and pathologies, Tanzi said.
Clinton's proposed level of funding "would be a tremendous boost for our nationwide efforts to overcome Alzheimer's disease," said Robert Egge, executive director of the advocacy organization Alzheimer's Impact Movement.
Egge, who is also an executive with the Alzheimer's Association, talked to Reuters after speaking on the Clinton campaign conference call.
While neither the association nor AIM advised the campaign on this proposal, Egge said, the association did provide the campaign with an educational briefing on Alzheimer's disease.
Clinton's proposal also comes as researchers have made recent progress in drug development for the disease.
Recent trial data on solanezumab from Eli Lilly and Co and Biogen's aducanumab have shown hints of genuine benefits.
Other companies aggressively working on Alzheimer's treatments include Roche and Johnson & Johnson.
Clinton, the front-runner for her party's nomination for the November 2016 presidential election, was to discuss her plan on Tuesday in an appearance in Fairfield, Iowa.
A cure for Alzheimer's would also help caregivers, including the so-called sandwich generation - people providing care for their children and their parents at the same time.
About 15 percent of middle-aged people are helping financially support both an aging parent and a child, according to the Pew Research Center. Older parents are likelier to need caregiving of some kind.
Clinton has often spoken on the campaign trail about meeting supporters who are struggling to care for family members with Alzheimer's.
For more on the 2016 presidential race, see the Reuters blog, “Tales from the Trail” (http://blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/).
(Reporting by Luciana Lopez and Bill Berkrot; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bill Trott and Andrew Hay)