New Treatments Needed to Avert “National Crisis”
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- As the champagne corks are popping this New Year’s Eve, the first American Baby Boomers will turn age 65. Members of the demographic bulge that transformed American politics and culture are expected to usher in yet another momentous change - a huge increase in the number of Alzheimer’s disease patients. [Embed codes at end of release. VIDEO LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0R2ILCd8V1s].
Although Alzheimer’s is not a natural condition of aging, the vast majority of patients diagnosed with the disease are ages 65 and over. As the senior population in the United States more than doubles between now and 2050, to about 88.5 million, the number of Alzheimer’s patients will more than double as well unless new treatments to prevent, arrest or cure the disease are found.
“The amount of suffering that will accompany the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for 13.5 million Americans is unacceptable, and the cost will be unsustainable,” said John Castellani [bio], president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “In millions of American homes, Alzheimer’s disease already presents a crisis. The expected increase in Alzheimer’s patients portends not only more personal pain and grief, but a national crisis.”
If no medical progress is made, the cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients will rise to $1.08 trillion by 2050, according to an estimate by the Alzheimer’s Association. That is more than the current U.S. Department of Defense budget. It is nearly 25 times more than this year’s entire Department of Homeland Security budget.
Hope lies with new treatments. Today, America’s biopharmaceutical companies are researching 98 medicines [Embed codes at end of release. VIDEO LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5r1fB3f1YM] for dementia, mostly Alzheimer’s, according to a report released today by PhRMA. All 98 are either in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The work indicates a major commitment to Alzheimer’s, given that each new medicine costs, on average, more than $1 billion to research and develop.
"Alzheimer's disease is the health care crisis of our generation-and our children's generation,” said George Vradenburg, chairman of USAgainstAlzheimers, a patient advocacy group. “Ten million American Baby Boomers will die of the disease-and Medicare and Medicaid will go bankrupt-without action. The rising cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients will amount to an astounding cumulative total of $2 trillion between now and 2020, and it will accelerate at an unsustainable rate thereafter. Researchers say we can stop Alzheimer’s by 2020, but only if we invest public and private resources to find a cure."
For decades, the brain disease recognized more than 100 years ago has eluded scientists searching for solutions. Today, despite great effort, there are only five FDA-approved medicines available to patients. While these medicines temporarily treat the symptoms for some, they do not alter the course of the disease, which eventually leads to death.
The mysteries of Alzheimer’s, however, are unraveling more quickly than ever before. One major breakthrough has come with the ability to identify biomarkers that show the progression of the disease in human brains.
Research into Alzheimer’s had long been hampered by the difficulty in accessing the brain. In the last few years, however, advances in imaging technologies, such as positron emission tomography (PET) scans, have greatly advanced researchers’ understanding of Alzheimer’s. Imaging’s ability to reflect changes related to Alzheimer’s disease has advanced significantly, particularly with longitudinal and cross sectional data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. The initiative created in 2004 is a years-long collaborative effort of biopharmaceutical research companies, non-profits, universities, the National Institutes of Health and the FDA.
Additionally, a better understanding of the complex mechanisms that lead to the plaque and tangles in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is offering new targets for pharmaceutical researchers.
Although most Americans are aware of the impact that the aging of America will have on national programs like Social Security, little attention has been paid to the crisis that will accompany a huge increase in the number of Alzheimer’s patients. In contrast, 13 countries in Europe either have or are working on national plans to address Alzheimer’s. For example, France’s $2.2 billion plan establishes caregiver coordination centers around the country and pledges to make “unprecedented efforts in research.”
“Public awareness and a commitment to medical innovation are critical in the fight against Alzheimer’s,” said Castellani.
The hope of a new discovery drives scientists and researchers. “All diseases are important, but there is something unique and terrible about Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Rachel J. Schindler, M.D., Executive Director and Clinical Disease Area Expert in Alzheimer’s Disease at Pfizer, Inc.
“Losing your memory is losing your identity, the person that is you. It is as if the things you’ve experienced that make you a unique person just slip away,” said Schindler. “I can’t think of anything more meaningful in medicine than to find something to treat this disease.”
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures. PhRMA members alone invested an estimated $45.8 billion in 2009 in discovering and developing new medicines. Industry-wide research and investment reached a record $65.3 billion in 2009.
PhRMA Internet Address: http://www.phrma.org
For information on how innovative medicines save lives: http://www.innovation.org
For information on the Partnership for Prescription Assistance: http://www.pparx.org
For more information on public health emergencies, visit http://www.rxresponse.org
For information on the danger of imported drugs, visit: http://www.buysafedrugs.info
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Alzheimer’s Research VIDEO
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Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease VIDEO
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Cindy Loose, 202-835-3460
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