January 2009

Daschle Remarks on FDA Leadership

On January 8, 2009, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held the first confirmation hearing of Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee, Tom Daschle. During the hearing, Secretary-designate Daschle was asked about his plans for implementing health care reform and improving coordination across federal agencies under his direction.

Among his health care reform priorities, Daschle listed the desire to reorient care back to primary care emphasizing prevention of disease rather than the treatment of illness.  He would achieve this by working to gain bipartisan support in Congress for legislation that would achieve health system reforms in key areas.  He also said that he would reduce the influence of politics at federal science agencies responsible for implementing these reforms. Several committee members expressed concerns about the leadership at the U.S Food and Drug Administration.  Secretary-designate Daschle stated that the FDA needs strong leadership and that he would work to improve morale in an effort to ensure that the agency’s decisions are guided by evidence and sound science. The Senate Finance Committee has primary jurisdiction over this appointment. The Finance Committee will hold a separate hearing and vote to advance Secretary-designate Daschle’s nomination to the full Senate for consideration.

Representatives of ACT-AD have played a leading role in urging officials of the Obama Administration to place the needs of patients first at FDA. The Alliancefor Aging Research spearheaded efforts to communicate with Secretary-designate Daschle regarding qualifications that are essential for a “pro-cures” FDA Commissioner. The letter was signed by 35 prominent patient and research advocacy groups, including the following ACT-AD members – the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, FasterCures, Research!America, the Society for Women’s Health Research, and RetireSafe. We will continue these activities to ensure that Alzheimer’s disease remains on the agenda for the incoming FDA Commissioner.

To read Secretary-designate Daschle’s testimony, click here.

To view the advocacy group letter to Secretary-designate Daschle, click here.

NIA Progress Report and PBS Special Focus on Alzheimer’s Disease Research

This month the National Institute on Aging (NIA) released its 2007 progress report on Alzheimer’s disease.  The report entitled 2007 Progress Report on Alzheimer’s Disease: Discovery and Hope highlights NIA and trans-agency research underway that relates specifically to Alzheimer’s disease.  In 2007 most of this research focused on the cognitive effects of aging and AD, neurodegeneration, and genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Some key sections of the report address:

  • Improving Our Basic Understanding of AD
  • Normal Cognitive Aging, Cognitive Decline, and AD: What’s the Difference?
  • Accelerating the Search for Genetic Causes and Risk Factors
  • Exploring All Possibilities to Improve AD Diagnosis
  • Making the Most of Translational Research
  • Supporting the Gold Standard: AD Clinical Trials

Also in January, a PBS special on Alzheimer’s disease began airing on a number of PBS affiliate stations.  Alzheimer’s Disease: Facing the Facts documents the personal and societal struggles resulting from the growing Alzheimer’s epidemic.  A number of prominent researchers who support the mission of ACT-AD are featured in the film including – John Trojanowski, M.D., Ph.D., The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; John Morris, MD, Washington University St. Louis; and Reisa Sperling, M.D., M.MSc., Brigham and Women’s Hospital,HarvardMedicalSchool.

Both the report and the documentary underscore the need for continued research to improve our understanding of the disease as a way to advance the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

To download the report, click here.

Clips of the special can be viewed at http://www.alzheimersfacingthefacts.org/ .