Friday, March 10, 2017
We all want a cure for Alzheimer's no question. If not a cure, then a way to prevent it. I blogged twice this week about Alzheimer's so I wanted to add one more story. Newsweek 's cover story for February 24, 2017 focused on prevention of Alzheimer's: The New Offensive on Alzheimer’s Disease: Stop it Before it Starts. The story opens with the news last year that an experimental drug failed to make much of an impact on those in the early stages of the disease. The story focuses on prevention:
This aggressive attempt to prevent Alzheimer’s rather than treating it is the most exciting new development in decades, as well as a radical departure for researchers and the pharmaceutical industry. Traditionally, drug companies have tested their therapies on patients who already have memory loss, trouble thinking and other signs of dementia. It’s been a losing tactic: More than 99 percent of all Alzheimer’s drugs have failed tests in the clinic, and the few that have made it to the market only ameliorate some symptoms. Not a single medicine has been shown to slow the relentless progression of the disease.
But with this new approach, even partial success—an appreciable slowing of brain degeneration—could have a big impact, says Dr. Reisa Sperling, a neurologist who directs the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. If a drug therapy can push back the onslaught of dementia by five or 10 years, she says, “many more people would die of ballroom dancing instead of in nursing homes.”
There are several ongoing clinical trials focusing on prevention, according to the article. There are also new tools to diagnosis Alzheimer's (where in the past, a brain autopsy was needed), We need to hope for a success, because otherwise, as the article points out, the numbers are very very bad:
The consequences of failure could be dire. Approximately 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and if no disease-delaying therapies are found soon, that number is expected to nearly triple by 2050, at which point the cost of treating and caring for all those people could top $2 trillion per year, after adjusting for inflation. That’s up from $236 billion today. O ne in every five Medicare dollars is now spent on people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars. And those figures don’t even include the hundreds of billions more in lost wages for family members who take time away from their jobs to care for loved ones. It’s not a question of a day off now and again. People with Alzheimer’s require around-the-clock care—and more than one-third of all dementia caregivers develop clinical depression.
The article also discusses the costs and coverage of any medication that proves successful in preventing Alzheimer's. Stay tuned.