Alzheimer’s successful drug trial: High costs have thwarted attempts to find a cure

The hunt for new treatments has been frequently thwarted, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to the world’s leading drug companies

Charlie Cooper
Wednesday 22 July 2015 18:06
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Encouraging news in the field of dementia drug research could not have come a moment sooner.

The hunt for new treatments has been frequently thwarted, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to the world’s leading drug companies. A successful drug would bring in billions for the manufacturer, but the costs of research have so often in the past proved fruitless.

Since 1998 more than 120 Alzheimer’s drugs have failed in trials. Between 1998 and 2012, only three gained approval – and these only for treating symptoms, not the disease itself.

Such was the frustration, many companies were reported to be considering abandoning the search.

A report published at the World Innovation Summit for Health earlier this year said that “repeated and costly failures” were leading “funding fatigue” for dementia research. Between 2009 and 2014, major drug companies had halved spending on research into central nervous system disorders (which includes dementia) the report said.

Dementia research has always suffered from under-funding compared to other global disease threats such as cancer and HIV/Aids.

But with the number of people living with the condition expected to reach 135 million by 2020, and care likely to cost the global economy hundreds of billions of pounds, experts argue that the societal and economic benefits of cracking the science behind a drug could be huge.

Scientists now hope the tide could be turning, as research begins to unravel the mechanisms that underlie dementia. Dr Eric Karran, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said that with early evidence of amyloid-targeting drugs having an impact, we could be on the verge of a “radical breakthrough” for Alzheimer’s therapy.

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