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.