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Wall Street BioBeat : Apr 1, 2008 ( )
Alzheimer’s Market Set to Grow Substantially
Geriatric Bubble Will Lead to 13 Million
You have heard plenty about the surge of aging baby boomers and the impending disastrous financial impact caused by an explosive growth in government entitlements. Medicare and Medicaid costs were $627 billion last year, and the Congressional Budget Office says that costs will double in 10 years. Now, add the epidemic proportions of individuals with dementia or some form of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There are currently about five million people in the U.S. living with AD. Worldwide, there are more than 100 million people suffering from diseases of the brain characterized by loss of neurons.
The Lewin Group’s 2004 report estimates that Medicare spending for AD will be $189 billion by 2015. Currently, about $5 billion annually is being spent worldwide on drugs to treat AD. These therapies, however, do not cure AD, they simply alleviate the symptoms. The current economic burden for AD patient care in the U.S. is about $100 billion.
There is a lot of new information on risk factors and how interventions in life style, such as diet, exercise, and intellectual stimulation, can slow down the disease process, however, scientists do not fully understand the cause of AD. Recently there has been a step-up in R&D, and there is a growing clinical pipeline of new drugs. Diagnostic tests, particularly biomarkers, are at an early stage but are urgently needed to show the effectiveness of drugs in development.
The market potential for Alzheimer’s disease and related cognitive disorder therapies is huge due to the numbers of patients affected and the cost of care. The R&D investment and knowledge base is growing each year with positive data for several new therapies expected in 2009. Products currently on the market are sold by larger companies such as Pfizer and Novartis as well as generic firms, so their stock prices are not very sensitive to sales growth.
Current and Predicted Market
Glutamate is a key neurotransmitter affecting memory and learning and is a target for drug discovery. It is implicated not only in AD but also in other neurodegenerative diseases such as schizophrenia and depression. Memantine is currently approved for AD and appears to block the glutamate pathway (NMDA receptor modulator) but also boosts the acetycholine (AChEI’s) pathway.
Recent studies based on cognitive tests and feedback from caregivers have shown the drug to be beneficial. Memantine, marketed under the brand names Namenda by Forest Laboratories, Axura by Merz, and Ebixa by Lundbeck is thought to have advantages over more established AD drugs such as Eisai and Pfizer’s Aricept and Novartis’ Exelon, which boost AChEI-related signaling. More clinical studies are required, though.
Myriad Genetics’ Phase III compound, on the other hand, is a selective amyloid (amyloid beta 42) lowering agent that acts through a gamma-secretase pathway. A recent report by Decision Resources regarding Flurizan’s effect in delaying progression from mild cognitive impairment to AD, touted the drug’s potential to become the gold standard of treatment.
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