Two recently-released reports by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) provide a compelling snapshot regarding the development of drugs for use against Alzheimer’s disease. The first of these reports, “Alzheimer’s Research: Setbacks and Stepping Stones”, indicates that only three drugs for use in treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s were approved between 1998-2011, while the development of 101 Alzheimer’s drugs was halted or abandoned during the same period of time – a staggering 34:1 ratio of failures vs. successes. However, even given these bleak statistics, PhRMA takes the optimistic position that these setbacks – though discouraging – contribute to a body of Alzheimer’s knowledge that may ultimately redirect research efforts toward an eventual breakthrough.
The biopharmaceutical industry is clearly continuing to focus on the development of Alzheimer’s drugs, as detailed in the second of PhRMA’s reports, entitled “Medicines in Development for Alzheimer’s Disease”. This report cites a total of 93 novel drugs that are currently under review by the FDA or in clinical trials for use against Alzheimer’s or other dementias; these include a diversity of approaches including various routes of administration, gene therapy, and potential vaccines.
The need for a successful drug is emphasized in this report, which states that over 5 million Americans are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, at a cost of $200 billion per year for the U.S. healthcare system. Without a new drug that will prevent, delay or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s, PhRMA anticipates that 13.5 million Americans will be afflicted with the disease by 2050, with costs of care increasing to over $1 trillion per year in the U.S. alone. Even if a new drug is capable only of delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years, PhRMA projects that this would result in a decrease of 43% in the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s, and a $447 billion decrease in corresponding healthcare costs, by 2050.