Failed strategies for treating Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are prompting a broad rethink on how to tackle the growing prevalence of these costly brain health problems.
At the BIO International meeting in San Diego last month there were parallel conversations on these two major brain health challenges – with speakers from the BIO Brain Health Track and Digital Health Summer Summit offering interesting views and potential solutions.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Back to Square One?
Nearly 50 million people globally are living with dementia today, and this number is expected to rise to 100 million people by 2040, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).
The last drug approved for treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease was in 2002. Since then, the pharmaceutical industry has invested billions of dollars in clinical trials to test new compounds that could slow down or stop the disease progression.
All have failed.
The question is then, Why? Having a perfect score in failing indicates a flawed approach to solving the problem and perhaps a flawed understanding of the problem itself.
There are two competing camps in the Alzheimer’s research community – one believes in the amyloid hypothesis, and the other camp firmly believes in tauopathy as the primary driver of the disease.
Both of these approaches attempt to describe the triggers and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and both are at best incomplete theories, based on the litany of clinical trial blowups tied to these approaches.
The Reality of Combating Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a single disease. It’s a broad neurodegenerative condition that includes damage to the micro-vascular network that supplies blood and nutrients to the brain.
Cerebrovascular disease (CVD) is almost always present with Alzheimer’s disease. None of the past Alzheimer’s clinical trials addressed CVD.
A decade or more from now, we will probably see a multiple therapy approach that takes into account a person’s genetic risks, vascular health risks, environmental risks, along with biomarkers that screen for a range of disease sub-types so that treatment can be personalized for every Alzheimer’s patient.
Curious about your risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease? Take the Healthy Brain Test, and learn more about steps you can take to maintain good brain health.
The Drug Pipeline Marches On
Research and drug trials are continuing, including novel approaches that finally break free from the old theories on what causes Alzheimer’s:
Special attention should be paid to the progress of non-amyloid/non-tauopathy candidate drugs.
While the number of drugs in the pipeline is encouraging, keep in mind that most of these candidates will struggle to make it past Phase II, and somewhere between none and a few will successfully be brought to market.