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How Close Are We To A Cure For Alzheimer's?

AD is a neurodegenerative disease and is the leading cause of dementia—a syndrome or a condition that manifests as a group of symptoms that affect cognitive and behavioral skills due to death of neurons, arising from a multitude of largely unknown causes (with the exception of genetic abnormalities). There aren’t any medications available today that either slow or stop neuronal damage, the drugs available in the market are involved in only marginally improving symptoms and are highly patient dependent.

With a total number of affected individuals predicted to increase to 13 million in the US and over 100 million worldwide by 2050, and skyrocketing costs for dementia care (currently at $259 billion (2017) and expected to grow to $1 trillion by 2050), it is safe to call dementia one of the biggest public health problems of our times.

Although first identified in 1906, it wasn’t until the 70s that we began to accept AD as a leading cause of death. To quote Robert Kutzman from a 1973 Journal of the American Medical Association editorial [6]:

In focusing attention on the mortality associated with Alzheimer disease, our goal is not to find a way to prolong the life of severely demented persons, but rather to call attention to our belief that senile as well as presenile forms of Alzheimer are a single disease, a disease whose etiology must be determined, whose course must be aborted, and ultimately a disease to be prevented.

In the past decade or two, due to high monetary incentive associated with the disease, companies like Eli Lilly, Eisai, Roche, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Biogen, and Merck & Co. have ('had' in the case of Pfizer [7]) devoted billions of dollars into projects, sadly with zero returns. After more than 400 clinical trials of therapeutics and billions of dollars, there is a failure rate of nearly 100% in trials that have been reported, compared to 81% for cancer [8]. No new therapies have been approved in more than a dozen years.

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Written by Quora for

(Photo credit Shutterstock)

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