Alzheimer's Medicines: Setbacks and Stepping Stones

PhRMA July 13, 2015

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Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating disease that causes individuals to lose their memories, independence, relationships, and, ultimately, their lives. Family and caregivers face many challenges as they care for a loved one who is gradually slipping away. From a societal perspective, Alzheimer’s has not only a human but also a financial cost — particularly on the health care system — which will only increase in the coming years as the number of Alzheimer’s patients grows.

Innovative new medicines are needed to treat, slow, and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Biopharmaceutical research companies are studying many potential new treatments. However, the path from basic research to new drug treatments is extremely long and complex with many setbacks along the way, particularly in the case of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new analysis finds that between 1998 and 2014, there were 123 unsuccessful attempts to develop drugs to treat Alzheimer’s – or as some call them “failures.” In that timeframe, four new medicines were approved to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease; for every research project that succeeded, about 30 failed to yield a new medicine.