Up until now, there has been no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but pharmaceutical companies are locked in a race to market drugs to tackle the condition. In excess of 35 such medications could be made available in the next five years, according to a report into products currently going through late-stage clinical trials.
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s found that 23 drugs designed to target the build-up of amyloid protein in the brain are in Phase II or III trials. A further 28 medications that tackle neurotransmitter activity are also being tested, meaning many look likely to be approved in the coming years.
George Vradenburg, co-founder and chairman of UsAgainstAlzheimer's, said: “The Alzheimer's disease pipeline, marred by decades of failures and underinvestment, is due for big victories. Thanks to growing investment from industry leaders, we remain cautiously optimistic that the current crop of late-stage Alzheimer's innovations will bring much-needed solutions to families in the near future.”
Despite the fact that Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people across the world, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US hasn’t approved a drug for the condition since 2003. In Europe, regulatory approval for the neurodegenerative disease hasn’t been passed since 2002, making it clear there is a gap in the market.
The pipeline analysis shows that the industry has now gained momentum, with an 18 per cent rise in Phase II drug development cases since 2016 alone. Phase III trials have also seen an increase of seven per cent in recent months, offering hope for those with Alzheimer’s.
Dr David Morgan, professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida, said: “There is no silver bullet when it comes to treating Alzheimer's. The more we learn about the underlying Alzheimer's pathology, the closer we get to a cure for a disease that is an enormous burden on patients, caregivers and global health systems.”
By the end of 2017, six drugs should have completed the Phase III trials, putting them one step closer to being marketed. This will help provide healthcare professionals with options when treating the condition, which sees nerve cells in the brain die and the organ shrink.
Some of the early symptoms to look out for in relatives include disorientation, short-term memory loss and mood swings. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it can lead to severe memory loss, anxiety and frustration and the inability to carry out simple tasks. Many of those who are diagnosed with the condition require round-the-clock care.
The main difference between Alzheimer’s disease and more general age-related forgetfulness is that it is not just specifics, but the entire context that is lost. As well as losing the name of a loved one, they will also forget what their relationship is with them and times when they have seen them before.
Not only is this frustrating and disorientating for the individual, but it can be very difficult for relatives. Drugs that help to maintain memories for longer could greatly increase the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease and a breakthrough in this area would be a huge step forward.