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Big pharma calls it quits on Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s research

Criticisms are flowing from national and international peak bodies as they come to terms with the recent announcement by one of the world’s leading drug makers, Pfizer, to end their research into discovering new medications for Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s.

Pfizer is putting an end to their research into discovering new medications for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (Source: Shutterstock)
Pfizer is putting an end to their research into discovering new medications for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (Source: Shutterstock)

The announcement came after decades of research into both conditions by the drug company, with a statement from President of Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development Mikael Dolsten citing that the “extremely difficult decision” was driven by science; not cost, adding that they faced continual setbacks, meaning the company had to “come to terms” with the fact that their research efforts were simply “not making the progress necessary to translate into truly transformational therapies”.

Among the Australian peak bodies to contribute to the global backlash against the decision is Dementia Australia, with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maree McCabe highlighting research into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as a “key element” in addressing the impact that dementia has on our communities.

“Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia and it is more important than ever that both governments and private organisations invest in dementia research,” she says.

“It is disheartening for people impacted by dementia to hear that Pfizer has made this decision.”

Currently, there are more than 425,000 Australians living with dementia which is currently the second leading cause of death in Australia and more recently the leading cause of death among women in our country.

These figures are set to increase to 1.1 million people affected by 2056, proving to Ms McCabe that research to find a cure is vital.

“Without a medical breakthrough the number of people with dementia in Australia is expected to increase,” she says.

“It is essential that there is ongoing investment into drug-based treatments for dementia, alongside other innovative forms of dementia research - the potential benefits of success will significantly impact the hundreds of thousands of Australians living with dementia now and in the future.”

Parkinson’s Australia CEO Steve Sant has also responded to the research areas being dropped by the pharmaceuticals company, saying Parkinson’s is another growing area of concern as our population ages.

“Similarly to Dementia Australia, we are very disappointed in hearing this news,” he says.

“Parkinson’s is increasing in our community, just as Alzheimer’s is, and knowing that there are some very hopeful new drugs and research avenues on the horizon, it seems strange that they [Pfizer] are pulling out now.

“Parkinson’s is such a complex condition and the more we can do and add to the knowledge base, the sooner we can slow or prevent it in our community.”

While announcing their withdrawal from the research fields for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, in their statement, Pfizer says they will be re-allocating funding to allow them to place “greater focus” on areas they believe they have the strongest possibility of bringing important therapies and vaccines to patients in the near term.

Dr Dolsten adds that Pfizer has “full faith” in the broader scientific community that meaningful therapies can and will be discovered in the long-term.

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