Expert insight

The search for a dementia cure rests on helping innovators

15 August 2019

This article was originally published in the Financial Times on August 6, 2019. 

The search for a dementia cure rests on helping innovators

Governments must steer private funding towards difficult diseases

Innovation can change the maths of Alzheimer’s disease. But to do that, governments need to change the maths for innovators. The estimated annual global cost of care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is $1tn, similar to total global spending on all pharmaceuticals. And Alzheimer’s costs are expected to double in 10 years as the number of patients rises from 50m to 82m.

But current intellectual property laws discourage companies from investing in drugs that treat slow-progressing, difficult diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It is the only disease among the top 10 global causes of death that lacks a treatment to slow it down. Failure rates have been higher in Alzheimer’s drug development than in almost any other disease. In cancer, one in five drugs completes testing successfully; in Alzheimer’s, it is one in 200. Pharmaceutical companies are studying more than 20 times as many drugs for cancer than for Alzheimer’s, even though the societal costs of each disease are about the same.

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David A. Ricks is the chief executive of Eli Lilly and president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations