The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative: Accelerating progress in the AD Field

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation


Yesterday I attended an advisory meeting for the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative. This effort is being orchestrated by academic leaders in the Alzheimer’s field, many of whom have participated in sizable grants from the National Institute of Health in past years. While the particular initiative under discussion is a single project, their clear intention to collaborate with one another, and to plan future research through this coordinated initiative, may have far broader reach. For example, such efforts could greatly bolster efficiency in the application of public research funds in the field.

To be sure, there is more to this initiative than top academics comparing notes prior to planning their grant writing strategies. Also attending the meeting were representatives from the NIH, the FDA, corporate healthcare, and a contingent of international researchers whose collaboration is also being sought. To my knowledge, such alignment and coordination among the constituents of “the healthcare system” is unprecedented.

In my twenty-year career on the commercial side of healthcare, I have never seen the FDA attend a meeting with industry representatives to express their views on how best to get a new drug or device approved. They have always offered clear guidelines and, like the legal system, relied on precedent to apply those guidelines with consistency. But in this meeting, they proactively shared their thinking on how industry should craft an approach.

For instance, a top FDA official shared the agency’s evolving philosophy that, for certain populations at the highest risk of getting Alzheimer’s, they will openly consider approval for treatments with small safety risks, provided that the benefits of treatment outweigh those risks. This is a welcomed stance geared to bringing a near-term solution to a population in need, and I found it to be a remarkably positive and hopeful development.

I was also surprised and encouraged to see fierce industry competitors, perhaps sobered by the collaborative spirit of the meeting, openly discussing strategies for sharing data and thoughts on trial design. All meeting attendees seemed to be caught up in new hopefulness about rapid advance in the field.

The presence of the NIH, with the well-known pressure on their research budgets, suggested they might be most inclined to fund the types of projects that have been carefully vetted by a wide-range of interested parties such as those present at this meeting. This was not lost on the attending researchers, who most likely viewed that as an important incentive to work together toward common goals.

Overall, there were no concrete steps taken or bold commitments made during the daylong discussion and planning session. But there was unmistakable progress toward collaboration and a unified assault on the task of rapidly developing new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

I see this as a bright ray of hope for the field and for the population faced with the looming risk of a terrible disease.

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