Sunday, March 29, 2015

Letter to the Editor: Pessimistic about Alzheimer's news

Newsday editorial of 3/22/15 and my Letter to the Editor ...
March 22, 2015 by THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Alzheimer's Researchers and their Hopeful News
Lately there's been a lot of hopeful news about that most hopeless of diseases, Alzheimer's. There's a new $100-million global fund forming to speed up research into new treatments and a cure for dementia. The money comes from the British government, five drugmakers and an Alzheimer's charity.
Dementia affects 47 million people and is projected to affect 100 million by 2030 and 150 million by 2050 as the global population ages.
But maybe that epidemic won't materialize. A projection made in 1920 of how many people would die of polio or pneumonia by 2015 wouldn't have allowed for the vaccines and antibiotics that lay ahead. Also, drugmaker Biogen Idec reported last week that an Alzheimer's drug it's working on sharply slowed the decline of Alzheimer's patients in a clinical trial. Last year a Stanford University study found a way to stop, and even reverse, dementia in mice. And Australian researchers recently discovered a method of reversing dementia in mice entirely different from the one the Stanford researchers are pursuing.
To project huge future problems like an Alzheimer's epidemic in 2050 is to assume we must face tomorrow's problems using only today's technology and treatment. Thankfully, that's not the case.

My letter to the editor:  My letter in response to this editorial was published online on Friday, 3/27/15 and in print on 3/29/15.  Their editor titled my letter, "Pessimistic about Alzheimer's news."  

Pessimistic about Alzheimer's news
Newsday’s editorial of 3/23/15, “Alzheimer’s researchers and their hopeful news,” is incredibly na├»ve.  The article reports on recent studies showing promising results on mice or with small human populations that could lead to a future with fewer people living with and dying from Alzheimer’s.  I, too, wish for that future.  However, the sad reality is that promising results with mice or even with small human populations have been reported many times before without being successfully duplicated in larger Phase III clinical trial testing.  Let’s wait to see if positive results can be duplicated in a Phase III clinical trial with at least 1000 or more participants before getting too excited about the latest Alzheimer’s treatment being tested.  Newsday’s editorial also cited a recent $100 million global fund for Alzheimer’s research as a positive sign.  $100 million may sound like a serious investment to help end Alzheimer’s, but when compared to President Obama’s most recent budget request for more than $8 billion for combined domestic and global HIV research, $100 million is the proverbial drop in the bucket.  Each year our National Institutes of Health allocate at least six times more money for research on HIV/AIDS, a disease which can already be successfully prevented and treated, then it does on Alzheimer’s, which has no means of prevention or effective treatment.  An estimated 700,000 Americans will die from Alzheimer’s this year, compared to about 15,000 dying from HIV/AIDS.  Newsday should be calling upon our federal government to re-order its funding priorities. 

Allan S. Vann, Commack
Editor's note: The writer is a caregiver to his wife, who has Alzheimer's disease, and writes frequently on the topic.


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