LONDON, UK (GlobalData), 18 September 2012 - With the event of World Alzheimer’s Day this Friday, September 21, key GlobalData analysts explore the current Alzheimer’s disease research landscape and what we can expect in the year ahead.
There are 36 million people worldwide suffering from the often heart-breaking and debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), while millions more make dramatic sacrifices to care for them. The US alone spends approximately $200 billion annually on AD patient care, with unpaid caregiver support estimated to value an additional $210 billion. Furthermore, due to an aging global population, the condition's prevalence is expected to quadruple by 2050.
The medical community, however, is making positive strides in tackling this crippling disease. Rob Littlefield, GlobalData’s analyst covering medical devices, said: “2012 has been momentous for AD in terms of progressing research, guidelines for therapy, government funding and services.”
Littlefield continued: “Recent studies have dramatically changed both the diagnosis and treatment of AD, and the future promises significant advances in research and care related to prevention and early diagnosis of this degenerative disease.”
This year, high profile clinical trials of medications designed to reduce levels of harmful protein amyloid in the brain, such as bapineuzumab and solanezumab, were ultimately unsuccessful, but Littlefield believes this area of study still has potential.
“Deeper analysis of the various study results indicate that anti-amyloid drugs are efficacious in their targeted approach and actually reduce levels of amyloid in the brain.
“It has been suggested that this approach would be more effective in impacting disease progression if implemented earlier, and to this end, three complementary prevention trials starting in the fall of 2012 will test whether anti-amyloid treatments are effective in asymptomatic AD patients,” said the analyst.
Dr. Sally Chege, GlobalData’s analyst covering neurology, echoes the growing industry consensus that the future of AD research may lie in early detection and prevention, rather than cure: “There are two major unmet needs that currently plague the field of Alzheimer’s: the lack of therapies that actually target and impact disease progression, and a dearth of early diagnostic biomarkers and imaging tools.”
Correspondingly, work has begun to develop biomarkers with the goal of aiding the identification of AD – vitally important work as current clinical diagnosis of the disease is inaccurate in about 15% of cases, even among experienced investigators. The disease can progress for a number of years before symptoms become evident, so the ability to initiate treatment before symptoms arise could prove revolutionary.
The upcoming year will see a UC Santa Barbara clinical trial attempt to trace AD to a specific genetic mutation, while investigations into anti-amyloid drugs, though unsuccessful to this point, will continue in optimistic mood thanks to Roche’s promising medication, gantenerumab. 2013 will also see further research into the long suspected link between AD and diabetes – a study with possibly massive implications as the global diabetes population continues to soar.
Promising clinical developments, combined with continued support from organizations such as alzheimers.gov and legislation including the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), may see the weeks and months between now and World Alzheimer’s Day 2013 celebrated as most successful yet in the fight against this tragic condition.
Related research: Alzheimer’s Disease Therapeutics - Global Drug Forecasts and Treatment Analysis to 2020
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