The recent announcement by Eli Lilly that a new drug intended to slow memory loss in people with Alzheimer's had failed a late-stage clinical trial felt like a punch in the gut. Look, I know that finding a treatment for dementia is a complex, Herculean task. But I was so sure that this time it was going to happen. And when it didn't, I knew the devastation that the thousands of people who volunteered for this clinical trial must have felt, as well as the dedicated Eli Lilly researchers and all those who'd devoted their time and energy to crushing this relentless killer.
Despite this setback - because of it, really - I am more committed than ever to the fight against this disease. The experience of watching my mother die of Alzheimer's is seared in my memory. Losing a person you love so deeply and feeling so helpless to stop it makes you rage, cry, swear and, ultimately, become an advocate. That's when you can take some power back.
Alzheimer's remains the third-leading cause of death in the United States, devastating millions of families and costing the nation $236 billion a year. Millions more are going to be affected as the baby boomers age. I'm a baby boomer, and I don't like the sound of that. The cold, hard reality remains that there is no treatment, prevention or cure.
But there is good reason to keep up hope. There are promising innovations on the horizon. An analysis of the Phase II/III Alzheimer's drug pipeline, conducted by ResearchersAgainstAlzheimer's, shows that there are now 22 Alzheimer's drugs in late-stage clinical trials. Eighteen of those may be on track to launch in the next five years.
So UsAgainstAlzheimer's is escalating its calls to action to increase research funding for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and to develop a stronger and faster clinical trial infrastructure. The fact is that the first person cured of Alzheimer's will be in a clinical trial - FACT - and we must continue to engage more people, including African Americans and Latinos, to actively participate in this research.
I believe that every success and failure brings us closer to a treatment or cure. We've been to the moon. We've turned HIV/AIDS from fatal into a chronic condition. I don't think it's pie in the sky to believe a treatment or cure is possible. UsAgainstAlzheimer's will continue to work passionately for people living with Alzheimer's and other dementias, and their families, to make this a reality. My optimism is going to pay off. And you can quote me on that!