1. Pfizer drops out of dementia drug race
In January, news hit the headlines that pharmaceutical company Pfizer is pulling out of neuroscience research.
This means that it will no longer work on potential treatments for dementia including Alzheimer’s and other conditions such as Parkinson’s.
Pfizer came to this decision after a number of setbacks in its research. This included the failure in 2012 of the drug bapineuzumab to help people in the mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s. Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, described the move as, ‘A heavy blow to the estimated 46.8 million people currently living with dementia across the globe.’
This is not a reason to lose hope. Financial giant KPMG thinks other companies are unlikely to give up, saying, ‘It’s too big a market to ignore. People are going to continue to go after it despite roadblocks.’
Other pharmaceutical companies have since come forward to pledge their continued involvement in dementia research. For example, Lilly said that the last 30 years of hard work has taught it to better understand the condition and inspired new therapies to test. The US National Institutes of Health invested an estimated £2.9 billion into dementia research in 2017 alone, triple the amount it spent in 2013.
But it’s not all about money and markets. Finding new ways to treat and cure the condition is an international effort, not only of pharmaceutical companies but of scientists working in labs in universities and hospitals.
For example, large co-operative research initiatives such as the EU-run AMYPAD, EPAD and MOPEAD are recruiting clinical study members from across Europe with the help of universities, hospitals and research institutes. These types of studies will help us learn more about why people develop dementia and why mild cognitive impairment becomes dementia in some people but not others.
‘As we make progress in our understanding of the diseases that cause dementia, we hope pharma will unite with us to turn breakthroughs into treatments that could improve the lives of millions.’
At Alzheimer’s Society, we continue to fund £10 million of biomedical and care-focused research each year. We have committed to raising £50 million to establish the UK Dementia Research Institute. We set this up together with Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Medical Research Council to bring the brightest research minds together in excellent research facilities in the UK to tackle dementia.
Dr Pickett said:
‘Every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia and, with this number set to rise, there has never been a more important time for such life-saving research. As we make progress in our understanding of the diseases that cause dementia, we hope pharma will unite with us to turn breakthroughs into treatments that could improve the lives of millions.’