Bill Gates Giving $100 Million to Fight Alzheimer’s

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Monday he’s giving $100 million to fight Alzheimer’s disease — $50 million out of his own pocket now, and $50 million later for start-up efforts.

Gates said he has a family history of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, and he also said the condition can wreck the U.S. healthcare system as more and more people get it.

“This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s,” Gates wrote in his blog.

“I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.”

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and this number is expected to grow as the population ages.

It’s not just devastating to families. It’s expensive, too.

“I first became interested in Alzheimer’s because of its costs — both emotional and economic — to families and healthcare systems,” Gates wrote.

“Those who have dementia spend five times more annually on out of-pocket health expenses than those who don’t have Alzheimer’s, and the disease accounts for direct American health care costs of $259 billion in 2017, with projected growth to $1.1 trillion in 2050,” the Alzheimer’s Association said in a statement.

There’s no cure, and treatments do not work well. Drugs such as Aricept, known also as donezepil, can reduce symptoms for a time but they do not slow the worsening of the disease.

Drug after drug has failed when tested in patients.

Several compounds can reduce the brain-clogging plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s but they have not shown conclusively that they ease symptoms or prevent disease. Such drugs are also years away from getting on the market.

The National Institutes of Health spent $929 million on Alzheimer’s research in 2016 and had $1.4 billion budgeted for the 2017 fiscal year that just ended. The NIH has $837 million in the 2018 fiscal budget.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Maggie Fox