Magazine article Drug Topics

Alzheimer's Research: Now Is the Time for Advocates to Unite

Magazine article Drug Topics

Alzheimer's Research: Now Is the Time for Advocates to Unite

Article excerpt

A dozen promising trials of Alzheimer's disease could be launched today if funds were available, said Paul Aisen, MD, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study at the University of California, San Diego. "We know how to pick the drugs. We even know what designs we would use for the trials. But these are expensive and we don't have the money."

With a tsunami of future Alzheimer's cases facing the nation and a number of recent drug trials proving unsuccessful, an October meeting in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and others, focused on how to better fund and accelerate research.

The clinical trials he referred to would focus on presymptomatic patients, said Aisen, and emphasize "antiamyloid drugs in combinations, but extending to unrelated therapeutic approaches." The nation would be able to fund all that with $2 billion, he said.

Costs

According to the Alzheimer's Association, spending on Alzheimer's disease by the National Institutes of Health totaled about $484 million in fiscal year 2013, the equivalent of $ 100 "for every $29,000 Medicare and Medicaid spends, caring for individuals with Alzheimer's."

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of 2011, long-term care, much of it involving patients with Alzheimer's disease, already accounted for roughly 30% of Medicaid expenditures.

Alzheimer's Association estimates show Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries' Alzheimer's-related costs climbing from $ 122 billion in 2010 to $344 billion in 2030.

Challenges

According to PhRMA, only three new drugs for Alzheimer's disease have been approved since 1998, resulting in a 34-to1 1 of "failures" to successes, although failures teach researchers a great deal too.

Aisen also told meeting attendees that while the members of the Alzheimer's disease research community have developed good communications with each other, there still is no "czar" or other infrastructure to coordinate the effort. This is another example, he said, of failure to address recommendations from the 2012 National Han to Address Alzheimer's Disease.

Reed Hickson, MD, consultant and former chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, warned that, days into the October government shutdown, the nation was already facing the next battleground for federal dollars. In a budget-cutting process that will be hard, fast, and ugly, he said, Alzheimer's disease research advocates need to unite behind a strategically designed set of a few investigations, in spite of the fact that there is so much research to be done. …

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