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Dementia 2021 – An Update on Drug Research & Development

Posted on: Jan 02, 2021

It’s the start of a New Year and the roll out of the COVID- 19 vaccine gives us hope that physicians, scientists and researchers can work together to tackle some of our society’s greatest public health challenges. 

Can we find the same success with Alzheimer’s disease care and treatment? 

Unfortunately, our track record when it comes to vaccines or medicines for dementia is disappointing. In 2020, the Biogen drug, Aducanumab, faltered at the finish line with a negative FDA panel review. The drug promised to be the first truly disease modifying medication and would have targeted early-stage persons with dementia. 

There is some good news. Thanks to the advocacy of the Alzheimer’s Association, research funding continues to be robust, supporting innovation. A $300 million addition to the NIH research budget was just passed by Congress in December 2020. 

Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, one of the top dementia researchers in the world, and his colleagues publish an annual review of the dementia drug (“therapies” or “agents”) development pipeline. Some highlights of his 2020 report include:

To read the full review article see: https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/trc2.12050

We must get through the current pandemic to refocus our priorities as a nation, but I am hopeful that we will soon see some more positive developments when it comes to dementia medications, perhaps as early as this year. The answer will likely lie in early identification and early interventions with medicine(s) and life-style changes to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or prevent it altogether.

We’ve ended 2020 with some hope surrounding COVID-19. 

Let’s hope 2021 ends with some similar good news about Alzheimer’s disease.

David Troxel, MPH, co-author of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care and Consultant to Christian Horizons Pathway Memory Support Program

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