(WASHINGTON) -- The government's race to confront Alzheimer's disease by 2025 is on.
In a meeting at the National Institutes of Health, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new steps in the government's strategy to develop treatments for the disease and provide better support to patients, families and caregivers in the next 13 years.
The plan targets the disease by funding research on treatments and prevention along with giving support to the 5.4 million Americans who are diagnosed and the millions more expected to develop Alzheimer's as the population ages.
"This is a road map that will help us meet our goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's disease by 2025," Sebelius said.
The Obama administration announced the plan to tackle Alzheimer's disease in January when the president signed the National Alzheimer's Plan Act and pledged to devote $80 million to fund Alzheimer's research. At Tuesday's NIH meeting, Sebelius announced how the plan would be put into action.
On Tuesday, the government is launching www.alzheimers.gov, an online resource for patients, families and caregivers looking for information on dementia and where they can get help. The government is also assigning $26 million to provide resources for patients and caregivers, including support in local communities and a public awareness campaign with TV, radio, online and outdoor advertisements.
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said researchers would amp up current efforts to investigate the disease. NIH is beginning by funding two studies investigating treatment and prevention of the disease.
One clinical trial will focus on treatment – an insulin nasal spray for patients in the early stages of the disease. The spray has already been tested in a small pilot study, which found that people using the spray displayed improved memory and better daily functioning than those who did not receive the spray. The NIH is devoting $8 million to the five-year study.
The other trial focuses on prevention, specifically by studying the potential for a treatment to target amyloid, the brain hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, in people who are healthy but at high risk for developing the disease. The study, which will receive $16 million in NIH funds, will be carried out in Colombia among people with a specific genetic mutation that promotes the early development of Alzheimer's.
The government also plans to provide resources to train health care providers in how to better diagnose and support patients and families diagnosed with the disease.
Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia have been financially taxing. According to the Alzheimer's Association, caring for people with dementia cost $200 billion this year alone, and could reach $1 trillion by 2050. The disease is physically and mentally devastating, not just for patients, but for families and caregivers who struggle to care for them.
Once the initial steps of the government's plan are under way, Sebelius said the plan would be evaluated annually and refocused as necessary.
Sebelius said she looked forward to the day when Alzheimer's disease joins a list of other diseases confined to the history books.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio