Alzheimer’s disease is a complex neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and was first described in 1906 by German physician Dr. Alois Alzheimer. The disease is characterized by specific key findings: amyloid plaques (extracellular deposits in the brain of a “sticky” protein called amyloid beta peptide) and neurofibrillary tangles (intracellular abnormally twisted forms of the protein tau are deposited in the axons of neurons). Both of these abnormal protein deposits have been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, but the exact causes remain unclear.
Over time, the disease destroys large areas of the brain, resulting in cellular loss and dysfunction, a gradual loss of memory, problems with reasoning or judgment, disorientation, difficulty in learning, loss of language skills, and decline in the ability to perform routine tasks. People with Alzheimer’s disease can also experience changes in their personalities and behavioral problems, such as agitation, anxiety, delusions, and hallucinations.
From the onset of symptoms, the disease progresses over the course of 5-12 years. Seven years is the average disease course, but patients may survive as long as 20 years.
Critical Unmet Medical Needs in Alzheimer’s Disease
- 5.3 million people in the United States currently have Alzheimer’s disease
- The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease could rise to 13.5 million by 2030, growing by 1 million patients per year after that
- One in 8 people ages 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease care costs $172 billion annually in the United States alone
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States
- Although other major causes of death have been on the decline, deaths because of Alzheimer’s disease have been rising dramatically
- From 2000-2006, Alzheimer’s disease deaths increased 46.1%—the death rates are expected to continue increasing as the population ages
Lack of Treatment Options:
There is a significant need for additional treatment options for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, their caregivers, and physicians. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChE-Is) improve cholinergic functioning and can partially ameliorate the cognitive deficits in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but only provide suboptimal palliative treatment. They can ameliorate symptoms for 6 to 12 months on average, but patients may have intolerable side effects and, as a result, less than 50% of Alzheimer’s disease patients maintain long-term AChE-I therapy.