#WeWontRest until we beat Alzheimer’s disease – together

On 23-25 October, I attended the Alzheimer Europe (AE) 29th annual conference focusing on “making valuable connections”. The conference offered a timely reminder of the global need to raise awareness around dementia and to deliver new tools to prevent, detect and treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. 50 million people live with dementia worldwide and this number is growing by almost 10 million each year – the equivalent of a new case every 3 seconds. It is listed by the World Health Organisation as the world’s 5th leading cause of death. Alzheimer Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60–70% of cases. In this context, one can understand that the number of national dementia strategies is growing across Europe.
The AE conference touched upon a broad range of topics, from preclinical research to early detection, clinical trials, technology and e-health, implementation in Europe of coordinated actions on dementia (Joint Action on dementia), socio-economic aspects and innovation.
Research and innovation are at the heart of our contribution to defeating dementia. Industry and academic researchers have invested an enormous amount of time, energy and funding in the search for new biomarkers and better therapies. Despite frequent setbacks in clinical trials, scientific progress is advancing rapidly and industry continues to invest significantly: there are 135 clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease in development and new avenues to explore as we search for ways to treat, slow or prevent Alzheimer's disease. Giving up is simply not an option.
Looking ahead, there is reason for hope. Biogen and Eisai’s announcement that Biogen plans to pursue regulatory approval for aducanumab offers new hopes to patients with AD. Aducanumab could become the first approved therapy to reduce the rate of cognitive decline associated with early AD. This would be great news not only for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers, but also for the science and research community.  It is a long road still ahead and we don’t know yet what the end result will be, but it is a welcome reminder that the industry and broader research community will not rest until we can offer new hope to patients living with Alzheimer’s and their families.
Prevention was also mentioned as a great hope for the future. A Finnish study on preventing cognitive impairment and disability (FINGER) highlighted very encouraging results. 30% of dementia cases are avoidable with a good diet, exercise, cognitive training and vascular risk monitoring. Many countries worldwide are now following the Finnish initiative and have established trials to test the efficacy of prevention for cognitive decline.
The conference also raised awareness about a number of technologies currently being developed to help improve the life of people living with AD, e.g. a pillow with sensitive areas that can activate sounds selected from the patient’s life to bring warm memories; devices that detect motions which play a pre-recorded message to remind a person to turn off the gas before leaving the house; devices that help keep track of the time and day; medication aids and locator devices.
During the conference, hope for the future came from all partners who are working together to improve the life of patients living with dementia. The pharmaceutical industry, through its EFPIA member companies, is also joining forces to reach a single goal: To ensure a brighter today and tomorrow for people with Alzheimer’s disease. We are committed to co-creating solutions with key stakeholders and agreeing on a common approach to ensure a better today and tomorrow for people with Alzheimer’s disease. We have highlighted our ideas in the paper “Taking Action Together to Ensure a Better Today and Tomorrow for People with Alzheimer’s Disease”.
Unlocking the mystery behind Alzheimer's disease and dementia and improving care for people require new types of partnership. As we navigate uncertain waters, we need to come together to explore the opportunities and barriers that arise and #WeWontRest until we beat Alzheimer’s disease – together.

Audrey Wolf

Audrey Wolf is Associate Director, Healthcare Systems and SMEs at EFPIA. Audrey supports the Precision Medicine...
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