Pfizer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has decided to halt any further development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s drugs, the company announced on Saturday, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal.
The company invested heavily in the search for an Alzheimer’s cure, but has continually been met with disappointment. Three hundred jobs will be eliminated at the company’s Massachusetts and Connecticut locations.
“This was an exercise to re-allocate spend across our portfolio, to focus on those areas where our pipeline, and our scientific expertise, is strongest,” the company said in a statement.
Pfizer isn’t the only drug company to axe Alzheimer’s research. Axovant, makers of a drug called intepirdine that was mid-study and the drug many hopes for a cure were pinned upon, announced that they would scrap the intepirdine program after it did not meet study goals. The company’s shares fell 50 percent after the announcement.
“Based on the totality of intepirdine data to date, there is no evidence to support its further development,” Chief Executive David Hung said in a statement.
With Alzheimer’s numbers reaching an all-time high, the demand for an Alzheimer’s drug has never been greater. Experts attribute the rise in numbers to a refinement in diagnosis and the fact that people are living longer. Worldwide, around 47 million are living with dementia. That number is expected to rise to 76 million by 2030.
What does this decision mean for Alzheimer’s research? And what does it mean for those who have seen their loved ones in the grips of Alzheimer’s and are worried the disease will come for them, with no hope of treatment?
Both the U.K.-based Alzheimer’s Society and the U.S.-based Alzheimer’s Association said the announcement is a disappointment.
“The brain is the most complex organ in the body and developing drugs to treat brain diseases is a tremendous challenge, but with no new drug for dementia in the last 15 years, this will come as a heavy blow to the estimated 46.8 million people currently living with the condition across the globe,” said Dr. James Pickett, Head of Research for Alzheimer’s Society.
In a separate statement, the Alzheimer’s Association emphasized that much of what we know about Alzheimer’s was discovered through failed trials. “These additions to the body of scientific knowledge will eventually lead to therapies that successfully slow, stop or prevent this devastating disease in the future,” said the statement.
Still, both organizations insist there is hope for a disease modifying treatment as early as 2025.
“Alzheimer’s Society has committed £50m to fund new research at the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Medical Research Council. By working to understand the processes that cause dementia in unprecedented detail, the UK DRI researchers aims to reinvigorate the pipeline for drugs that can slow, stop or prevent this devastating condition,” said Pickett.
The Alzheimer’s Association is launching the U.S. POINTER study this year, the first of its kind in the U.S., that will look at how multi-dimensional lifestyle interventions affect Alzheimer’s risk. They’ve committed more than $20 million to advance 23 clinical trials that look at aspects of Alzheimer’s.
“Even knowing the obstacles, we have never been as optimistic as we are today. The Alzheimer’s Association is confident that we will change the trajectory of this disease,” the statement concluded.