The prestigious Economist weighs in on the “pooling of drug test data” discussion (Wall Street Journal, “Drug Makers Will Share Data From Failed Alzheimer’s Trials”, June 11, 2010) and agrees with Cure Alzheimer’s Fund: the emphasis should be on research that finds the cause of the disease rather than spending billions on the development of drugs that may be addressing the wrong targets or the right targets in the wrong ways. To quote the Economist, “the problem of what causes Alzheimer’s is profound” and so far, unresolved. In fact, as the article points out, fundamental perspectives on the causes of the disease are changing right now, and to at least some extent obviating the billions spent on drugs developed from very imperfect information about the basic pathology of Alzheimer’s.
It is a very hard problem to solve, but, again as the Economist states, “it is the “R” rather than the “D” of research and development that needs to be emphasized at the moment.” We at CAF couldn’t agree more with the Economist’s conclusion that now is the worst time to be cutting back on the “R”, which, in fact, NIH is doing. The numbers that are increasingly well known are staggering and depressing. The United States will spend roughly $170 billion on care for Alzheimer’s patients in 2010, but invest only about $480 million in research into the causes of the disease through the National Institutes of Health in 2011. Shockingly that number is DOWN from $643 million in 2006.
As the Economist summarizes, “you get what you pay for”. Unless we rebalance this equation of care spending to cure spending, the future for the roughly half of people over 85 who have the disease or will get it in the next ten years is bleak indeed.