For decades, Alzheimer’s disease has remained a stubborn outlier in the field of medical progress.
Although our understanding of the pathology behind Alzheimer’s disease has increased dramatically in recent years, of the top 10 causes of death, Alzheimer’s is the only one that currently cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Between 1998 and 2017, there were 146 attempts to bring new Alzheimer’s treatments to market, but just four successful approvals. These current medicines merely treat symptoms and not the underlying cause.
The urgency to find new treatments is underscored by the daily battle faced by the 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, as well as their caregivers, to manage this ruthless disease. Barring a major breakthrough, these numbers will only increase. According to a recent report, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s, or mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s, will likely rise to 15 million by 2060. Additional data project the cumulative total cost of Alzheimer’s disease between 2017 and 2030 will amount to $7.7 trillion—$3.2 trillion in health care costs and $4.5 trillion in the value of unpaid caregiving.
With a growing population facing the potential to be impacted by Alzheimer’s, it’s critical innovation can continue to progress so that one day we may find a treatment that either slows the progression of the disease or reverses the damage done to cognitive function. The United States has been a powerhouse for the research and development of new medicines, supported by a policy environment created to foster partnerships, R&D and a talent pool unique to the American ecosystem.
Today, there are 92 medicines in development for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, and the biopharmaceutical industry continues to add to the billions of dollars already invested in the search for desperately needed treatments.
Unfortunately, some policymakers in Washington have chosen the opposite direction, proposing radical changes that could weaken the American innovation system and hurt Alzheimer’s patients.
Policymakers must put patients first, and should continue to pursue practical, bipartisan solutions that prioritize lowering out-of-pocket costs for patients balanced with maintaining incentives for advances needed against our most costly and challenging diseases.