May 15 marks the start of Dementia Awareness Week, backed by the Alzheimer’s Society. Scrip has compiled a list of 10 facts industry bods interested in the space – and the wider public – might want to know about ongoing drug development for Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia.
Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia – although not all dementia is due to this condition. Other causes of dementia include vascular dementia, fronto-temporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and Korsakoff’s syndrome.
The pharmaceutical industry has retained an interest in Alzheimer’s R&D for more than 50 years and these top 10 facts provide a quick rundown of the current research landscape, the biggest challenges for drug developers and the expectations for market advances in the near future.
1. No new Alzheimer’s therapy has reached the market in the last decade despite the number of candidates in development being at peak level. High hopes are held for Eli Lilly & Co.’s Phase III candidate, solanezumab, to reach the market in 2018. Though the drug targets only a specific patient population, it has been shown to have disease-modifying effects in clinical trials.
2. All of the six key drugs currently approved to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms work by increasing the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, helping nerve cells in the brain to communicate. These approved therapies are: Razadyne (galantamine); Exelon (rivastigmine); Aricept (donepezil); Namenda (memantine); Namzaric (memantine + donepezil); and Cognex, which is no longer widely sold in the US.
3. One of the greatest challenges in the search for effective Alzheimer’s treatment is the difficulty in confirming a diagnosis, particularly in the early disease setting. Data from a 2016 Datamonitor Healthcare survey show that on average only 55% of the potential prodromal population (when memory is deteriorating but a person remains functionally independent) are diagnosed compared to 74% of moderate Alzheimer’s dementia patients across the US, Japan and five major EU markets.