From Setbacks to Stepping Stones: Alzheimer's disease

From Setbacks to Stepping Stones: Alzheimer's disease

As knowledge of Alzheimer's increases, hope remains high for millions of affected patients and caregivers with nearly 100 medicines in the pipeline

Washington, D.C. (September 13, 2012)— The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) released two new reports at its first annual Research and Hope Awards ceremony, which celebrated advancements made in research and patient care for Alzheimer's disease.  The reports detail how obstacles play a role in moving Alzheimer's research forward, as well as the progress that is being made to help confront this complicated disease.

"Alzheimer's disease prevents those affected from fighting for themselves, so it's up to all of us to fight on their behalf," said PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani. "Confronting this devastating disease of the brain will require continued collaboration in the scientific, medical and patient care communities and a commitment by policymakers to support and reward medical innovation."

The first new report, "Alzheimer's Research: Setbacks and Stepping Stones," found that between 1998 and 2011, 101 treatments have failed to reach patients.  In the same time period, three medicines have been approved to treat symptoms of the disease. This 34 to one ratio of setbacks to successes underlines the difficulty of developing new medicines for Alzheimer's.

"Setbacks in Alzheimer's research are disappointing to many, including the scientists carrying out the studies, but these unsuccessful attempts are critical stepping stones to advancing our understanding of this extremely complex disease," said Castellani. "The reality is that so-called failures in the development of new drugs for Alzheimer's are helping redirect research – providing new information that allows science to move forward."

As detailed in the new "Medicines in Development for Alzheimer's Disease" report, biopharmaceutical research companies are currently investigating or developing 93 new medicines for patients with Alzheimer's and other dementias. The medicines in development – all in either clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration.  Examples include:

  •     An intranasal medicine that is able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier for mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease.
  •     A gene therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
  •     A synthetic vaccine that induces antibody production without creating a systemic immune response

"This cutting edge research will help to bring us ever closer to our goal of better tackling and eventually conquering this debilitating disease," Castellani added. "For this critical innovative work to continue and to help curb the costly impact of this disease on our health care system, policymakers must support policies that foster medical advancements for patients and value innovative engines of growth such as the biopharmaceutical sector."

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country's leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures. PhRMA members alone invested an estimated $49.5 billion in 2011 in discovering and developing new medicines.