There are no medicines currently available to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 5.4 million people in the United States.
Now the latest research on the disease has been discontinued after patients tested did not show improvements.
The New York Times reported that two recent tests by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson of an intravenous drug known as bapineuzumab failed to improve the cognitive or daily functions of patients at risk of having Alzheimer’s any more than a placebo.
According to Businessweek, bapineuzumab is an antibody intended to break up beta amyloid protein plaque that collects in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Some believe that this plaque buildup may be the cause of Alzheimer’s.
The Wall Street Journal reports that drug companies Eli Lilly & Co., Baxter International Inc., Roche Holding AG, Merck & Co., and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. are still working on Alzheimer’s medications. Lilly also targets the plaque buildup with their drug. But company executives are calling the chances of success for their medication a long shot.
Lilly is expected to soon report results of its late-stage studies of its drug solanezumab, to see whether the company will submit it for approval or discontinue it. According to alz.org, costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s or similar diseases will add up to an estimated $200 billion in the U.S. for 2012, including $140 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid.
Average Medicare payments for an older person with Alzheimer’s are almost three times higher than for an older person without it, and Medicaid payments are 19 times higher and expected to keep rising.