This editoral ran in The Kansas City Star on March 15, 2023.

One in 3 seniors in the U.S. will develop Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. This horrific disease is rapidly claiming the minds and lives of millions and requiring thousands of family members to serve as caregivers for their loved ones. The good news is that finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is achievable, and it must be a national priority.

The gravity of this disease garnered a national response in 2011 when the U.S. Senate passed NAPA, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, to develop a plan of action to research and treat this disease. Four years later, the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act placed Alzheimer’s disease on the same priority level as cancer and AIDS, the only two other areas of biomedical research subject to professional judgment budgets.

Through NAPA and the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, great strides have been made in researching the disease and moving our research community closer to a medical breakthrough.

However, these two laws are set to expire soon, and if they aren’t reauthorized by Congress, the work being done by our national research institutes and regional centers such as the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center will be delayed or potentially even terminated. While holding town halls across the state, I have met many Kansans with Alzheimer’s, and also heard from many who have altered their lives to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. If you know someone who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s or dementia, you understand why we must continue to build on the important progress made over the past decade to understand and effectively treat Alzheimer’s.

To begin the new Congress, I joined my colleagues in the Senate to introduce the NAPA Reauthorization Act and the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act of 2023.

When first introduced, NAPA established the National Alzheimer’s Project at the Department of Health and Human Services, and required a coordinated national plan to accelerate research and improve care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families.

The original Alzheimer’s Accountability Act required the National Institutes of Health, which implements NAPA through one of its agencies, to produce a professional judgment budget each year in order to seek additional funding for Alzheimer’s research priorities. The professional judgment budget outlines these research priorities and the funding needed to accomplish them in the upcoming fiscal year.

Research conducted by the NIH has helped increase understanding of the role of amyloid, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s. As a result, a new drug, Lecanemab, was approved last month through the Food and Drug Administration’s accelerated approval pathway to help treat early Alzheimer’s.

More than 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and a medical breakthrough to treat the disease is the only hope we have of slowing those devastating numbers. In addition, by 2050 the nation is set to spend $321 billion per year on costs associated with the disease. Through the NAPA Reauthorization Act and Alzheimer’s Accountability Act of 2023, scientists can advance understanding of the disease, target research for early detection, relieve private institutions of the risks associated with research and development and conduct clinical trials of new treatments.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, I have worked to secure a significant increase in funding for NIH research into Alzheimer’s and related dementias from $504 million in 2013 to $3.7 billion in 2023. This is a vital step, and we must continue to prioritize funding for NIH research. And by passing the NAPA Reauthorization Act and the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act of 2023 to accelerate medical research, Congress can help provide families from Kansas and across the country with hope.

These two bills provide the foundation for federal investment and coordination in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Congress must reauthorize both pieces of legislation before 2025 to avoid losing ground and to effectively treat and one day cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Jerry Moran represents Kansas in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.