Unsuccessful drug trials, insufficient funding, and patients too ill to participate in trials spell trouble for the war against dementia. The degradation, struggle and cost in the UK (as well as America and elsewhere) will rise exponentially.
The Daily Mail’s (MailOnline) Sam Blanchard discussed the tremendous challenges dementia patients face in the United Kingdom (and by extension, the world). Research is just more challenging for this neurodegenerative disease. For example, three high-profile clinical trials failed in just the past year. The journalist writes that there are at least 12 times fewer scientific papers on dementia than on the topic of cancer, despite the devastating path of both disease categories.
Dementia in the UK: A Crisis
The UK, Blanchard reports, spends as much on dementia as it does on cancer, yet the research funding far favors the latter than the former.
The UK faces a growing crisis as the population ages and people live longer. In England alone, it is estimated that about 676,000 people have dementia—the entire UK has about 850,000 cases. The condition mostly impacts the elderly (e.g. 65 and up), but the disease can materialize earlier. The economics of dementia care for the already-strained public system in the UK are material—with an estimated £23 million per annuum. This is predicted to triple by 2040, which will be greater than the cost of cancer, heart disease, and stroke, according to the UK’s NHS.
Collaboration will be Key for Prerequisite Foundational Knowledge
The answer to Dementia in the UK and abroad will be collaboration among government interests, non-profit patient-based organizations, industry and universities. Dr. James Pickett heads research as the Alzheimer’s Society, a British charity currently investing £10 million into dementia research annually. He quoted to MailOnline that “One of the biggest challenges is that we’re trying to develop treatments without a really detailed understanding of the disease.”
Why Dementia Clinical Trials may be Different
As most individuals don’t recognize they have dementia until its too late, they often are in rapid decline when they are ready to potentially participate in a trial. The disease is “beyond the point of repair.” Moreover MailOnline reports that often finding patients in this state raises ethical problems and difficulties eliciting detailed feedback. According to Dr. Bart De Strooper, a well-known Alzheimer’s expert and director of the UK-based Dementia Research Institute, “in cancer ofrAIDS, you can get consent from people to treat them more aggressively, but this is more difficult for people with dementia.” Moreover, as the patients often aren’t in pain or not overtly suffering, there isn’t a driving force motivating them to consistently take the experimental medicine when they are on a trial.
Some Pharma Updates
At one time, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Roche, Novartis and Biogen were all developing dementia drugs—now they have all terminated their programs, except for the case of Biogen. Pfizer announced the withdrawal of its neurology research all together due to multiple failed trials. Although there are still 132 drugs for dementia at some stage in the pipeline, the promise has been challenged by failed studies. Biogen did make the surprise decision first in 2019 that it and Eisai were abandoning aducanumab, a late-stage dementia experimental drug. The one bright spot in 2019, other than the potential of a new Chinese drug, was that Biogen revived aducanumab by applying for a US FDA New Drug Application (NDA), saying new analysis of findings give it promise. The FDA will make a decision on the Biogen drug this spring. Moreover, Green Valley’s Oligomannae received conditional approval in China—the first Alzheimer’s drug to do so in 17 years. Clinical trials for Oligomannate are coming to the West, including America and the UK.
Follow the MailOnline source link as journalist Blanchard delves deeper into the human interest of all this in the UK—after all, this is about the patients, which is all of us at some point or another.