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Leading Way to End Alzheimer’s

Editor, News-Register:

Recently, a delegation of West Virginians joined over 1,200 advocates in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association. The Mountain State has a population of less than 2 million residents, but it has a big investment in this issue.

A pair of bipartisan bills recently introduced by U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) seek to continue progress in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease, which costs the US $321 billion a year. A report from the Alzheimer’s Association stated that West Virginia’s Medicaid costs for caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease totaled $445 million in 2020 alone.

The National Alzheimer’s Project Reauthorization Act, S. 4203, and the Alzheimer’s Accountability and Investment Act, S. 4202, both of which have been referred to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee for consideration, are co-sponsored by Capito, who saw both of her parents battle Alzheimer’s disease. If enacted, S. 4203 would reauthorize NAPA through 2035 and update the legislation to reflect progress made in understanding the disease, including a new focus on promoting healthy aging and reducing risk factors, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers’ offices. This same group of lawmakers are also original co-sponsors of S. 4202, which would continue a requirement through 2035 that the director of the National Institutes of Health submit an annual budget to Congress estimating the funding necessary for NIH to fully implement NAPA’s research goals. Advocates who visited the Hill on May 17 urged Sen. Joe Manchin and Reps. Alex Mooney, David McKinley, and Carol Miller to support efforts to reauthorize NAPA and provide necessary funding for Alzheimer’s research.

West Virginia plays a big role in the research around Alzheimer’s and dementia. In October 2018, West Virginia University neurosurgeon Dr. Ali Rezai treated the first patient in a groundbreaking US clinical trial, which utilized focused ultrasound treatment to open the blood-brain barrier and target the hippocampus of a patient with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Most recently, Rachel McNeel, a chemistry major at WVU, identified early metabolic changes caused by Alzheimer’s disease in the eyes and brain. Her findings represent an important step toward early detection. The Beckley native presented her work to members of Congress in April of this year.

Over 39,000 West Virginians are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Their loved ones provide 135,000,000 hours of unpaid care annually. Our residents are truly invested in finding a cure, and look to Congress for support.

Sharon M. Covert

Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Association

West Virginia Chapter

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