In one of the nation's most ambitious initiatives to fight Alzheimer's, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute based in Arizona has obtained a $33.2 million federal grant to conduct an ambitious study to test whether an experimental drug can delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The drug to be tested in the trials has not yet been selected. The study will focus on people ages 60-75 who have a high genetic risk for Alzheimer's but have not yet developed memory or thinking problems.
The study tests the idea that scientists may be able to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease in people who are cognitively normal but are likely to develop memory and thinking problems as they age.
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Alzheimer's afflicts some 5 million Americans.
The new trial is expected to test 650 people with a medication that clears the brain plaques associated with dementia. The total cost of the study could be as much as $150 million, depending on the drug chosen. The trial will secure the additional funding from a foundation and the pharmaceutical industry.
Despite the scope and cost of the study, there is no guarantee of success. Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, scraped money together for the grant when forced budget cuts slashed the Obama administration’s promise of $100 million in additional funding for Alzheimer’s for 2013. However, the risk is worth it, she said.
“The worst thing we could do would be to just hunker down and hold off tackling very important problems,” Dr. Collins told The New York Times, adding, “Obviously, this is high-risk research, but goodness, the stakes are so high that we felt we had to go forward even in the face of the most difficult budget environment that anyone can remember at the NIH."
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