Alzheimer’s Research Breakthrough?

May 20, 2015

The pharmaceutical/dementia industry was abuzz recently when Biogen announced the results of its clinal trial of BIIB 037, an Alzheimer’s drug.

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The results — significant reduction in symptoms — were so successful that they decided to accelerate the clinical trials. If all goes well, this compound could be commercially available by the end of the decade.

The news was important not only because of the drug itself, but also what it represents for the industry.  Big pharma has invested millions of dollars in Alzheimer’s research, with little to show for it.  Part of Biogen’s success may be due to their process.  They spent a lot of time and money screening trial participants, making sure that their Alzheimer’s was at an early enough stage that it would respond to the drug. The Biogen study raised the possibility that other companies’ drugs might also work if they tested them in earlier stages of the disease.

While this is good news, the sobering fact remains that there is no cure for dementia.  The Biogen compound is not a cure.  It only alleviates symptoms.

Federal funding for Alzheimer’s research is a little under $600 million a year. Experts say that it should be $2 billion.    That’s a lot of dough.  But it’s a fraction of the cost of care.  In the US we spend $225 billion/year on dementia care (home care, assisted living, hospice, etc.)  It’s expected to become $1.2 trillion by 2050.

We need to invest in research the way we did with many cancer and HIV/AIDs, turning these maladies from death sentences into often manageable conditions.



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