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A Most Expected Treatment for Alzheimer’s

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 06/04/2021 - 14:14

A watershed announcement for medicine, the approval of an Alzheimer’s treatment, is expected for next Monday. The drug developed by Pharmaceutical Biogen is pending approval by the US FDA, but this process has not been easy as it the drug has drawn controversy for its 50/50 chance of succeeding.

This is the second time the drug faces an FDA panel. In November 2020, Biogen failed to gain support from a panel of FDA’s advisers as “data from a single clinical trial with positive results was insufficient to show Biogen’s drug works,” shared Bloomberg. This time, Biogen had presented data from two aducanumab trials at a conference in December. Biogen’s drug Aducanumab is an antibody designed to remove amyloid plaque from the brain, but during “only one of two large-scale trials showed that it significantly slowed progression of the disease,” reported Reuters.

Alzheimer’ is thought to begin 20 years or more before symptoms arise, explains the Alzheimer’s Association, through changes in the brain that are unnoticeable to the person affected. Only after several years of brain changes do individuals begin to experience noticeable symptoms such as memory loss and speech problems.

To date, there are no drugs that cure Alzheimer’s. However, there are five FDA-approved drugs to treat symptoms of the disease: galantamine, memantine, rivastigmine, donepezil and memantine. These medications help mask Alzheimer's symptoms but they do not treat the underlying disease or slow its progression. The Alzheimer’s Association explains that an innovative drug for Alzheimer's should treat the underlying disease and stop or delay cell damage that eventually leads to a worsening of symptoms.

Symptoms occur when neurons in the parts of the brain involved in thinking, learning and cognitive function have been damaged or destroyed. As the disease progresses, neurons in other parts of the brain are damaged or destroyed as well. Eventually, neurons in parts of the brain that enable a person to carry out basic bodily functions, such as walking and swallowing, are affected. Individuals become bed-bound and require around-the-clock care. Alzheimer’s disease is ultimately fatal.

In Mexico, over 350,000 people are affected by Alzheimer's disease and 2,030 patients die from it annually. It is estimated that one in three adults will face this disease. Deaths from Alzheimer's and dementia increased by 16 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As population lives longer, Alzheimer’s becomes an urgent health issue that must be addressed through new policies. The world’s aging population is expected to increase the prevalence Alzheimer’s, explains Hospital Management. GlobalData epidemiologists analyzed the epidemiological trends of Alzheimer’s in the seven countries (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and Japan) and determined that the total prevalent cases of Alzheimer’s are expected to increase from 10.6 million cases in 2016 to 13.8 million cases in 2026 in those countries, an annual growth rate of 2.98 percent.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends policy makers encourage early detection and diagnosis to reduce risk and to prevent avoidable hospitalizations that burden healthcare infrastructure. Moreover, the association recommends establishing Alzheimer's centers of excellence, providing cooperative agreements to public health departments and increasing data collection, analysis and timely reporting.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Reuters, Bloomberg, The Alzheimer’s Association, INNN
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst