News via Dow Jones today is that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is to stop research into producing new drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Like several other companies, Pfizer has invested heavily in developing treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s because of the potential benefits, but were disappointed when they failed to work during testing.

In 2012, Pfizer and partner Johnson & Johnson halted development of an Alzheimer’s drug called bapineuzumab after it failed to slow memory loss in test subjects. And in 2017 Eli Lilley’s drug, solenazumab, failed to produce results in a trial of 2,000 patients in the UK, despite earlier reports of success in a smaller clinical trial. Other companies, such as AstraZeneca PLC, Biogen Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co., keep pursuing Alzheimer’s treatment, but analysts consider the projects very risky.

For 20 years pharmaceutical development for Alzheimer’s disease has largely focused on removing the protein deposits in the brain thought to be responsible for causing neurological damage leading to dementia.  In May last year it was announced that a new Dementia Research Institute would be set up in University College London and in three other research centres, headed by Dutch neuroscientist, Bart de Strooper, who was directing researchers to examine the role of inflammation and the brain’s immune system.

But there is good news. The incidence of dementia, that is the rate of new cases, has dropped by 20% in the last two decades in the UK and other developed countries. The decrease has been due to healthier lifestyles, including stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake to moderate, having a good diet, regular exercise and maintaining good social connections.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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