Government Relations Update

APA comments on National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease

Comments include a call for research that links identification of biomarkers with cognitive and behavioral markers.

By Pat Kobor

On March 28, the American Psychological Association (APA) submitted comments (PDF, 441KB) on the Draft National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease (PDF, 1.46MB). The National Plan is being assembled by the federal government’s National Advisory Committee on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services (PDF, 50KB) and was authorized by the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, legislation approved in 2010.

This was the second round of comments APA has submitted on the National Plan (see previous coverage). A revised draft of the plan incorporating some of the original comments from stakeholders was released on February 22.

APA’s latest comments include a call for research that links identification of biomarkers with cognitive and behavioral markers. “The ability to image biomarkers has significantly advanced the study of Alzheimer’s. What continues to be missing in the current draft is an acknowledgement of the critical role of neuropsychological testing and assessment to measure changes in cognitive performance. Real clinical benefits for those with AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] depend on fully understanding how biomarkers relate to cognition and behavior.”

The draft National Plan also calls for a public education campaign to help correct misperceptions and prevent stigma.  APA’s comments encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to include two important messages:  “1) Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is not a normal part of cognitive aging; and 2) there are modifiable risk factors for AD (including diabetes, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, smoking, depression, cognitive inactivity or low educational attainment, and physical inactivity) and actions individuals can take now to reduce their risks. A recent study (Barnes et al, 2011), notes that up to half of AD cases worldwide are attributable to seven potentially modifiable risk factors -– and that a 10-25% reduction in all seven risk factors could potentially prevent as many as 1.1-3.0 million AD cases worldwide.”

The draft National Plan calls for a summit meeting to set a research agenda for Alzheimer’s.  The National Institute on Aging is planning this meeting for May 14 and 15, 2012, on the campus of the National Institutes of Health.  The agenda is posted online, and registration is free.