The news that a drug has been shown to have “disease modifying” effect on Alzheimer’s rather than merely alleviating symptoms is a hugely important health development.
Alzheimer’s is a devastating condition that is becoming more prevalent as hundreds of millions of people around the world live to ages that few people reached 100 years ago, let alone the minuscule numbers of people who reached such very old ages centuries or millennia ago.
The rapid advance in longevity is one of the greatest medical advances in human history, alongside achievements such as the radical reductions in infant mortality that have been achieved since the early 20th century.
Around the western world, people are enjoying lives of rich fulfilment into their 80s and 90s and sometimes beyond that.
Soon this wonderful medical advance will become commonplace in the developing world and then the third world.
Dementia, however, is perhaps the biggest problem that accompanies this scientific triumph. As people live longer, many are affected by conditions that they would not have had to cope with if they had died in their 60s or 70s.
Alzheimer’s is one of those stubborn medical conditions such as pancreatic cancer and motor neurone disease against which there has been little headway.
The failure to make significant progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s is all the more telling given that there is vast money to be made out of any drugs that make inroads into it.
The experimental drug solanezumab reduced mental decline by 34 in a group of patients taking mental tests.
But unfortunately this is unlikely to help many current Alzheimer’s sufferers. It will be the end of next year before a phase III trial is complete and the drug only seemed to help those victims in the early stages of the devastating disease.
The prospect of becoming an Alzheimer’s patient is one that is dreaded by people as they get older. This drug might mark the beginning of a turnaround against the condition.