This week the annual 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference took place in Washington, DC. The conference is an opportunity for dementia researchers from around the world to come together and share their study results around the prevention and treatment strategies for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The presentations demonstrated a diversity of treatment-related findings which is good news for patients and should be noted by those in the pharma sales field as it means the expansion of options for treatment.
Results from more than a dozen experimental drug studies at AAIC show the research community attacking Alzheimer’s disease from multiple angles, targeting the underlying causes and some of the most pernicious symptoms. Data from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly suggests its solanezumab drug can cut the rate of the dementia’s progression by about a third. A new trial is due to report next year and should provide definitive evidence. The death of brain cells in Alzheimer’s is currently unstoppable. Solanezumab may be able to keep them alive.
Advances such as theses show a clear maturation of the Alzheimer’s research field, a recognition of the need for a broader attack, and hint at future possibilities for combination therapy. New reports included advanced trials and new analyses in three drugs targeting the abnormal amyloid protein that forms plaques in the brain (one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s), plus three drug trials that target other pathways and symptoms in the disease, including psychiatric symptoms such as agitation.
This is good news as projections reported by The Lewin Group for the Alzheimer’s Association show that 28 million American baby boomers will get Alzheimer’s by midcentury — which will consume nearly 25 percent of Medicare spending in 2040 — unless there are significant advances in treatment and prevention. A study by the same group released earlier this year suggested that a treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years could save $220 billion within the first few years of its introduction.
Also concerning was the information that women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Alzheimer’s Association 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
On the more promising side, studies indicated that brain scans, memory tests and body fluids may hold the keys to understanding a person’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, even among those who don’t have memory and thinking problems associated with the disease. A highlight from the conference was a study that suggests it could someday be possible to detect Alzheimer’s-like changes in saliva, which is simple to obtain, easily transportable and has been successfully used in diagnosing a variety of diseases and conditions. Another study suggests positron emission tomography (PET) scans of brain inflammation could one day be used to detect the disease and track the impact of treatment.
Worldwide, around 36 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease – a condition that accounts for around 60-80% of dementia cases. In the US alone, around 5.3 million people are living with the disease – of whom 5.1 million are aged 65 and older. Over the next 10 years, the number of seniors with the condition is expected to rise to 7.1 million. By 2050, around 13.8 million older adults will be living with Alzheimer’s. This year, it is estimated that around 700,000 people in the US aged 65 and older will die from Alzheimer’s, making it the 6th leading cause of death in the country – the only cause of death in the top 10 for which their is no way to prevent, slow or cure it.