PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for a big bump in funding to cure Alzheimer’s at a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., on Thursday.
Cruz joins a handful of other presidential candidates who have called for increased funding into medical research and development. Cruz’s comments came after an audience member shared her experience as a caregiver of two people with Alzheimer’s disease and her frustration over the amount of spending put into searching for a cure for the disease.
“I, too, have seen firsthand the ravages of Alzheimer’s,” Cruz said, noting that his grandmother, a schoolteacher in Cuba, suffered from the condition for 10 years. Cruz said spending on research and development around treatments and cures for Alzheimer’s should “dramatically increase,” though he did not pinpoint by how much.
Alzheimer’s research has been given a big financial boost recently — the spending bill Congress passed in December saw a $350 million increase in funding to study the disease for a total of $936 million.
“One of the ways our country has been penny-wise and pound-foolish is [in how we’ve been] investing in research and development into cures for these devastating diseases,” Cruz said.
An estimated 5.3 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease — a progressive neurological condition marked by a loss of memory — and that number is expected to spike as the population ages, according to data from the Alzheimer’s Association. The association estimates that spending on Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia neared $226 billion in the United States alone last year. Currently, there is neither a treatment nor a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Cruz isn’t alone in his calls for an increase in funding for Alzheimer’s research — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called for a $2 billion annual investment into research on Alzheimer’s and related conditions as part of a larger investment into the National Institutes of Health. Experts in the field have said $2 billion is the amount of funding needed each year to make progress in research.
Senator Marco Rubio has said that that Alzheimer’s disease research needs to be prioritized the way research into HIV/AIDS was. Neither Rubio, former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, nor Donald Trump — all of whom have also touched on Alzheimer’s disease on the campaign trail — have said specifically that they’d boost funding to $2 billion.
In addition to increasing funds for Alzheimer’s research, Cruz said he’d like to see an increase in funding for cancer and diabetes research.