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Retired executive comes to Pinellas to launch national Alzheimer's funding campaign

CLEARWATER — The white-haired woman shuffled around a shady, fenced-in yard Tuesday, bracing herself on the arm of a young, uniformed attendant.

Inside the Villas of Belleair, a 98-bed dementia home, a former media executive and his wife, a former TV sitcom writer, launched a nationwide lobbying group to beef up funding for Alzheimer's disease research.

"We're at war. We have to name the enemy," George Vradenburg told a gathering of caregivers and advocates. "We have to call out Alzheimer's disease, and we have to attack."

Vradenburg and his wife, Trish, announced their USAgainstAlzheimers group here because a tenth of Americans with the disease live in Florida, and the state has a Senate race in full gallop.

He is a former executive with CBS, Fox and Time Warner. She was a screenwriter for Designing Women and other television sitcoms. Her mother died of Alzheimer's at age 80.

Hospital, nursing home and other medical expenses of Alzheimer's will cost Medicare and Medicaid $172 billion this year, a bill that will triple in 25 years as baby boomers retire.

Meanwhile, for every $100 the federal government forks out for care, it spends less than 25 cents on finding a cure.

A bill to quadruple federal research funding to $2 billion has languished in Congress for several years, with support from 47 senators, so the Vradenburgs, who are big contributors to Democratic candidates, are touring swing states to up the pressure.

They have a snappy slogan: Stop Alzheimer's by 2020.

They have a website: www.usagainstalzheimers.org.

And they have polling data: Of 600 Floridians surveyed, 60 percent said they are "somewhat or very worried that they may get it," George Vradenburg said. "And 68 percent said they would favor candidates who would support more funding."

Retired executive comes to Pinellas to launch national Alzheimer's funding campaign 09/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 3:45pm]

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