TORONTO, July 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Several physicians recognized for their contributions to clinical research and advances in the treatment of people with Alzheimer's disease today called for immediate changes to how healthcare professionals approach the management of the disease.
Citing statistics that show a lack of diagnosis and use of currently available prescription medicine proven to have important positive clinical impact, Gary Small, M.D., and Rachelle Doody, M.D., Ph.D., said that better education of primary care doctors to eliminate misconceptions is a critical first step to give people with Alzheimer's disease a "fighting chance." They emphasized that drugs that affect the cholinergic system are the only drugs shown to have a positive impact on all stages of Alzheimer's disease – this has been established by two decades of clinical trials and real world observational studies. Furthermore, they also pointed out new data published by Dr. Harald Hampel, M.D., Ph.D., supporting important, new information on the role medicines targeting the cholinergic system may have in Alzheimer's patients.
According to the Alzheimer's Association and published research:
- 46.8 million people worldwide1 and 5.4 million people in the United States2 are thought to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, with the numbers expected to reach 120 million globally by 2050.
- Less than 50% of affected individuals are correctly diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease3.
- Less than 25% of the diagnosed patients receive treatment4.
- If prescribed treatment, less than 50% of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease remain on therapy after 4 years5.
"It is unfortunate that only a minority of primary care doctors believe they have received sufficient training to diagnose the disease," commented Dr. Small, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "We see patients regularly for whom the diagnosis of Alzheimer's was missed. Unfortunately, the result is people with the disease are not getting treated. This robs them of the ability to perform everyday tasks independently and maintain quality of life. We must change this now. We know that research to find a cure is important. But so, too, is clinical research of medicines that can make an impact sooner."
"Unfortunately, there is a general misconception among some doctors and patients that cholinesterase inhibitors do not provide much benefit," said Dr. Doody, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Baylor College of Medicine. "Years of study have shown that they do, and, therefore, it is very important to treat patients to preserve as much cognition and function as possible – it is important to treat them immediately after diagnosis to slow down progression of symptoms. This improves the quality of life for individuals and families affected by the disease."
"Results of our recently published brain imaging studies add to the growing amount of clinical and scientific evidence that supports the importance of the cholinergic system in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Hopefully, we will soon get additional innovative compounds and therapies that will further enhance the cholinergic brain system. Companies like Axovant and others are in the late-stage development process of such novel compounds. If they are successful with the development of these compounds, then we believe they could be used in combination with standard of care therapies that we have today. That's really good news for patients and caregivers," said Dr. Hampel, Professor at the Department of Neurology, Marie Curie University and AXA Research Fund Excellence Chair (Sorbonne Universities), and representative of the Hippocampus Study.
In summary, some of the most prominent physicians in the field of Alzheimer's disease call for immediate action: patients consulting their physicians about possible early signs of Alzheimer's disease, physicians carefully assessing these patients, and in case of positive diagnosis – prescribing appropriate medications targeting the cholinergic system to ensure maximum benefit.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. It is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States6.
For more comments from Dr. Small:
For more comments from Dr. Hampel:
Funding for this initiative was provided by Axovant Sciences Ltd. Axovant Sciences Ltd. (NYSE: AXON) is a leading clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on acquiring, developing and commercializing novel therapeutics for the treatment of dementia. Axovant intends to develop a pipeline of product candidates to comprehensively address the cognitive, behavioral and functional components of dementia and related neurological disorders. Our vision is to become the leading company focused on the treatment of dementia by addressing all forms and aspects of the condition.
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3 Solomon PR and Murphy CA. Geriatrics 2005;60:26–31
4 Small G and Dubois B. Curr Med Res Opin 2007;23:2705–13
5 Data on file
SOURCE Axovant Sciences Ltd.