Looking for a decent Alzheimer s treatment anytime soon? Forget about it.

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Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 1.10.31 PMAlzheimer s disease (AD), perhaps the most important condition today without any satisfactory treatment, is likely to remain this way for the foreseeable future. Given the extraordinary toll it takes on individuals and their families, this is especially tragic.

But this serves as a difficult, but accurate lesson about medical research: There are diseases which, no matter how much time and money you spend on research, that you come up with nothing. Alzheimer s is as good as example of such a disease.

ACSH friend and uber-blogger Derek Lowe posted an excellent summary of the failed approaches (and the failures have been nothing short of spectacular) over many years in his blog In the Pipeline.

He says, We still have no clear idea of the actual early mechanisms that lead to Alzheimer's. The amyloid hypothesis, though it has a fair amount of evidence on its side, remains unproven, and every attempt to target it pharmacologically has either failed or (if you squint hard) just about failed. The only reason we're running prevention trials with the agents we have is that they failed to do anything in treatment trials. We have staggered into an era of prevention trials because we have nothing else to offer.


ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom adds, Throwing time and money at a disease may or may not result in a game-changing therapy, nothing, or something in between. For example, the 20-year, massive campaigns against AIDS and hepatitis C have been huge successes by any measure. The former is now a chronic disease where HIV positive people are now essentially living a normal life span, and the actual transmission of the virus can be almost entirely prevented by antiretroviral drugs. The latter is now essentially curable, and with different drug combinations cures rates (completely eradicating the virus) are approaching 100% in some trials. Cancer lies somewhere in the middle and Alzheimer s, Parkinson s among others, are still largely untreatable

Will we see a magic bullet for AD? Drug research often results in big surprises both good and bad. But AD a particularly devastating and growing problem is a particularly tough nut to crack. We should keep our expectations low.