Existing therapies only treat for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, which is thought to be caused by the build-up of plaques in the brain. New therapies are currently in development for early or mild forms of the disease, where symptoms may not yet be evident. These new treatments have the potential to delay the onset and/or progression of Alzheimer’s by preventing or even reversing the build-up of plaques.
Current treatments are only effective in some individuals, and only address the worsening of symptoms – providing temporary relief for patients. Disease modifying therapy offers the potential to delay the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s, allowing patients to live an independent life, for longer. It also enables patients to maintain their cognitive capabilities and personality for longer, meaning more time with their friends and family. Even a short delay in the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s is expected to have a large impact for the quality of life of patients, their families and carers.
Today, more than 10.5 million patients in Europe live with a form of dementia, of which 60 to 80% present as Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to nearly double over the next 35 years, due to a growing and aging population, reaching over 18 million by 2050. Between 1998 and 2014, terminated Alzheimer’s treatment trials outnumbered approved medicines by 30 to 1 – illustrating the high stakes of investing in Alzheimer’s research. New clinical trial results for Alzheimer’s treatments are expected in 2018.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s is expected to be crucial to the success of disease modifying therapy. For example, access to rich high-volume datasets could allow predictive analytics techniques to identify key risk variables. Early detection could delay the need for the high levels of care associated with severe Alzheimer’s disease, which is estimated to cost healthcare systems approximately €20 billion annually across the EU.
Collaboration between healthcare system stakeholders and manufacturers is critical to generate real-world evidence for innovative treatments. Proactively adopting eHealth/ mHealth initiatives would provide healthcare systems access to the robust data capture systems needed to generate patient outcomes. In light of privacy laws, continued revision and standardisation of national and international data collection and distribution is needed to allow for these datasets to be captured and shared for analysis.