The government is putting its money where its mouth is about Alzheimer’s disease. They are funding two cutting edge studies, as part of a national Alzheimer’s plan. The goal is to find an effective treatment or prevention by 20-25.
The first study is interesting, not just because of the drug involved – but because of whom it’s being tested on. It is a $100 million study, which will look at whether the drug Crenezumab, developed by the drug maker Genentech, can prevent or slow the Alzheimer’s. It will be tested on about 300 members of an extended family in Colombia. People in this family carry a gene that causes them to develop Alzheimer’s disease at an early age, sometimes as early as in their 30s, but often by age 50. They will test the drug on people before they develop any symptoms to see if they can prevent the characteristic damage to brain cells.
Crenezumab targets amyloid and removes it. Many experts believe that Alzheimer’s is caused by the build-up of the protein beta amyloid in the brain, which causes brain damage. There are up to 25 other drugs that aim to do the same, but this drug was chosen because it doesn’t cause brain swelling as a side effect.
The study is being funded by several sources. The National Institutes of Health will provide $16 million, $15 will come from a non profit called Banner Health, and the rest will come from Genentech itself.
There’s been some belief that diabetes and Alzheimer’s is somehow related in affecting how the brain is fueled. Another study will look at whether an insulin nasal spray, which won’t affect blood sugar levels, can restore memory in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s or people with mild cognitive impairment. The government is contributing 8 million dollars to that study.
Right now an estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or related dementias and if the numbers continue to climb, we’re looking at up to 16 million people affected by 2050. Not only is it devastating for patients and their families, but it could cripple the healthcare system. Right now, it is costing the US about $200 billion to care for people with dementia. By 2050, it could cost $1 trillion.
The government has just unveiled a new Alzheimer’s web site. Starting yesterday, families and caregivers can check a new one-stop website www.alzheimers.gov for easy-to-understand information about dementia and where to get help in their own communities.
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