Stem Cells, Alzheimer's, the Search for Hope (cont.)

MEMBER QUESTION:
In your opinion what happens to stem cell research under a second Bush term or first Kerry term?

REAGAN:
John Kerry, in a phone conversation before the Democratic convention, promised me that his first act as President, if he was elected, would be to sign an executive order reversing the Bush administration's policy regarding stem cell research. I assume that in a second Bush administration we would simply see more of the same.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Besides supporting candidates who support stem cell research, what can we do as individuals to push this issue forward?

REAGAN:
Supporting candidates, at this point, is probably the best thing you can do. Scientists, citizens, certainly people with a variety of illnesses, are already on board with stem cell research. It's the politicians who, as usual, are lagging behind.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Isn't stem cell research going on in the major drug companies, if not here then overseas?

REAGAN:
Drug companies are interested in embryonic stem cell therapy, but generally speaking, they only look about two or three years down the line. We're about five years out from stem cell therapy becoming a reality, and that's just a little too far over the horizon for corporate America. Sad, but true.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Ron, how much federal funding would be requested?

REAGAN:
I couldn't put an exact dollar figure on it, but it would cost a lot less than sending humans to Mars or prosecuting an unnecessary war in the Middle East.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Would funding for this take away funding for things like Alzheimer's?

REAGAN:
There's no reason why it should, though it may take away funding for unnecessary wars, and wouldn't that be a good thing.

MEMBER QUESTION:
As someone with multiple health problems I can honestly say when you speak on this you are speaking for me and all of us who are ill and very tired of living this way. Thanks for all your efforts!

REAGAN:
You're quite welcome.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Dear Ron, although I agree with your position on the stem cell issue, as a libertarian I completely disagree with government funding on this issue (eg -- California wants to spend hundreds of millions of state tax payers money). Your comments, please?

REAGAN:
How do you feel about government subsidies of oil companies and other energy producers? The government funds all sorts of programs that the public would have trouble funding itself. In the hierarchy of worthwhile programs, embryonic stem cell research has to be near the top of the list.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Isn't it logical to expect stem cell therapy would solve many of the health problems being funded today through NIH and specific grants, and perhaps at an overall cost savings?

REAGAN:
That is quite likely, but we'll have to wait for the research to bear fruit.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Have you thought of approaching researchers outside the U.S. for stem cell research if the U.S. doesn't seem like it would change their policies?

REAGAN:
Researchers outside of the U.S., in Europe, for instance, are proceeding at full speed ahead. The issue here is federal funding for stem cell research in the United States.

MODERATOR:
During your father's presidency the perceived lack of response to the AIDS epidemic lead to a more active, vocal, and politically savvy type of medical advocacy. Do you see any irony in your role as this type of advocate?

REAGAN:
I see no irony whatsoever, but perhaps I just don't have the right frame of mind.

MODERATOR:
Some say we should not use embryonic stem cells, but could do the work with adult cells. Your response?

REAGAN:
Embryonic stem cells, according to everything I've heard from researchers in the field, hold out far more promise than adult stem cells. Research should continue in both areas.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Is Alzheimer's going to benefit in any way -- even by association?

REAGAN:
It is unlikely that stem cell therapy, in the near term, will be used to help Alzheimer's patients. However, any discussion of Alzheimer's that draws attention to the disease may be helpful.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Why are you and your mother so interested in this if it won't assist Alzheimer's?

REAGAN:
Because it will help so many other people. How small do you think we are?

MODERATOR:
While you haven't made the connection between stem cell therapy and Alzheimer's, your advocacy of one has drawn attention to the other. Can we talk about what it was like to have a family member with Alzheimer's disease?

REAGAN:
I didn't actually live with my father, but Alzheimer's is a terrible tragedy, not just because it is a terminal illness, but because it robs people of the ability to communicate with loved ones during the last years of their lives. Physical pain is bad enough, but the inability to communicate with one's family, with one's loved ones, must be an unbearable pain.

MODERATOR:
How is your mother holding up these days?

REAGAN:
She's adjusting; she's doing quite well. She has a new dog, a Charpei named Duchess, and that helps. She continues to be interested in embryonic stem cell research.

MODERATOR:
Will she be speaking out about Alzheimer's or stem cell research in the near future?

REAGAN:
I'm sure she will.

MODERATOR:
What helped her as a caregiver for your dad?

REAGAN:
She had the support of some fine medical people, including very devoted nurses. She had the support of her family and her deep love for my father was what animated her throughout.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Please give her our heartfelt love and support!

REAGAN:
Thank you.