The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a proposal Thursday to assist companies in developing new treatments for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The scientific community and the FDA believe that it is critical to identify and study patients with very early Alzheimer’s disease before there is too much irreversible injury to the brain,” said Russell Katz in a press release. He’s the director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “It is in this population that most researchers believe that new drugs have the best chance of providing meaningful benefit to patients.
The irreversible, progressive brain disease, is expected to triple by the year 2050, and local programs are eager to provide more care to slow the numbers down.
Robyn Katz, program manager of Al’z Place, which provides care for people with Alzheimer’s disease or severe memory impairment in Alachua county, said it serves about 22 clients a day and has about 40 people on its waiting list.
“As the baby boomers continue to age, we’ve been noticing an increase in requests to our program,” Katz said.
She’s also seen a spark in younger people diagnosed with the disease – in their 50s and 60s.
Leilani Doty, director of the University of Florida’s Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative Cognitive Memory Disorders Clinic, hadn’t heard about the FDA’s proposal yet, but she is optimistic about developing new treatments and is hopeful of a cure.
In the meantime, she believes that living a healthy lifestyle can increase brain activity and improve daily living among those affected by Alzheimer’s.
“A healthy lifestyle can make a significant impact in prolonging the health of the brain, even if someone is destined to get something like Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.
Doty recalled going through old files a few weeks ago and finding an article published in 1992 stating that there would be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in five years.
“Well it’s 2013 now, and we definitely do not have cure for Alzheimer’s disease. At first when I read that, I became discouraged, but then I thought, since 1992, we have identified so many pieces of information,” she said. “For each small answer that we’ve uncovered, we’ve identified other questions that need to be answered. So we have made progress.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 450,000 people in Florida are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and there are many efforts to help families find resources and information.
“We have a real strong network to help families. What we want, though, is a cure. What we want is a real breakthrough, and that will still take time, but with more research available, hopefully we’ll get to some of those answers more sooner.”