How Can We Develop Alzheimer's Drugs faster?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

One of the barriers to faster drug development is the time it takes to recruit well-characterized research subjects into a clinical trial.

Consider this example: if a trial needs 2000 people over the age of 65 who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's then it is drawing from a total pool of no more than 2-3 million people in the USA. If the protocol excludes research subjects who are currently taking a cholinesterase inhibitor (the most common class of prescription drugs for AD), then the pool is cut approximately in half. Additional common exclusions for other diseases and/or treatments reduce the target population further. Seeking 2000 people from a national pool of a million or so, while in competition with more than a dozen other trials who wish to recruit the same people is a daunting task. It can take a long time.

Sadly, there are people who wish to enroll in trials but are unaware of them. Despite the efforts of the drug development groups, it is impossible to blanket the country with perfect information in real time. There is always a knowledge gap between the needs of the clinical trialists and the information held by the public.

Pfizer is taking what seems to be an intelligent step in the direction of solving this problem. They are preparing to launch a website where potential research subjects can register and share personal, medical information about themselves in a protected environment. From this database, clinical trialsts will be able to more efficiently identify and contact those subjects who would qualify for a particular trial. Hopefully, this electronic marketplace will reduce the lag between the initiation of a trial and the time when it is fully enrolled.

I expect that many will not trust a pharmaceutical company to hold their medical information without trying to exploit it for some commercial benefit. However, I suspect many others, who are keenly interested in gaining access to experimental drugs, will be willing. Pfizer and the rest of their brethren have tremendous incentives (including legal incentives) to use this information only for its stated purpose and I believe they will.

Overall, I think this is a great idea that could meaningfully accelerate drug development and produce the better AD treatments that we so desperately need.

A better understanding and more awareness of Alzheimer's related issues can impact personal health decisions and generate significant impact across a population of aging individuals. Please use the share button below to spread this educational message and help the world.

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