By Julie Steenhuysen
(Reuters) - The Obama administration said on Tuesday it plans to spend an additional $50 million this year and will seek an extra $80 million in fiscal 2013 to bolster research for Alzheimer's disease, a fatal brain-wasting condition that affects more than 5 million Americans.
The $50 million cash infusion brings the U.S. Alzheimer's research budget to half a billion dollars, still far short of what the nation spends on other chronic diseases. The increased spending is intended help make good on the U.S. target set last month to find an effective treatment for Alzheimer's by 2025.
Current Alzheimer's drugs only treat symptoms, but no treatments can keep Alzheimer's from progressing. Alzheimer's experts predict that without an effective treatment, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's will double by 2050.
"These projections are simply staggering," National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said in a statement.
"This new funding will accelerate NIH's effort to use the power of science to develop new ways of helping people with Alzheimer's disease and those at risk."
The spending will support the nation's first comprehensive plan to fight Alzheimer's disease, an effort mandated by the National Alzheimer's Project Act signed into law by President Barack Obama last year.
"Today's announcement reflects this administration's commitment to confronting Alzheimer's, a disease that takes a devastating toll on millions of Americans," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
The project will coordinate government-wide efforts to prevent and treat the disease and create a national strategy for Alzheimer's.
In June, global Alzheimer's experts warned that the United States was falling behind in efforts to fight the debilitating disease, and called on U.S. lawmakers to boost research funding and take greater leadership in the global Alzheimer's effort.
So far, U.S. investment in the search for Alzheimer's treatments has fallen short of what the nation spends on other chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
Roughly $6 billion is spent each year by the NIH on cancer, which affects about 12 million Americans, and more than $4 billion on heart disease, which is the nation's leading cause of death, killing more than 800,000 Americans each year.
"This infusion of funds is important and the Alzheimer's Association appreciates this step by the administration," said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, who called Alzheimer's "the public health crisis of this century."
(Reporting By Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Bill Trott and Jackie Frank)