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AD Research Needs You!

Anybody who has been either diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD) or is caring for someone with it hopes that ongoing research will soon identify drugs or other treatments that make a difference. Currently, there are more than 100 drugs in clinical trials, with 28 of these being studied in phase III trials (often referred to as "learn and confirm," this phase compares the safety and effectiveness of a new drug against the current standard treatment). Still more drugs are awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval to enter human testing. That human testing is vital, because before any new drug can be used in clinical practice it must be rigorously tested in humans.

Unfortunately, recruitment is often the slowest aspect of clinical trials. It is not uncommon for the recruitment phase to last longer than the treatment phase, since screening for suitable participants is time-consuming--and sometimes recruitment goals are not met. But the people who do volunteer and make it through screening are contributing towards the advancement of science, and the care, treatment and wellbeing of others (both those with AD, as well as those who may develop it at some time in the future). Older adults who take part in AD research also may stand to gain personally because they get expert medical care at leading healthcare facilities during the trial, and may gain access to treatments that aren't yet available. For other diseases, such as heart failure, studies have suggested that even those older adults who take placebo during drug trials do better than older adults who don't take part. This may be due to the close monitoring that occurs for all participants in a clinical trial, which could identify treatable disease complications earlier, or because participation in a trial may increase a person's motivation to adhere to their medication regimens, or make lifestyle changes that improve their health.

Taking part in AD research can be time consuming--it will involve regularly meeting with the research team, who will carefully assess your memory, and whether you're having any side effects. It's also important to recognize that there won't necessarily be any personal benefits. If you're not experiencing any obvious memory problems, you have to ask yourself whether you actually want to know if you are showing early signs of cognitive decline, or are at particularly high risk for AD. This is a very personal issue, but it seems clear that trying to intervene in the disease process early is the most promising path we have for stopping or slowing down this disease.

As of September 2017, 54,073 volunteers were needed to complete all of the current AD prevention trials. I urge you to consider being one of these volunteers. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) website has information about clinical trials that are currently recruiting volunteers (visit, and also offers a trial-matching service if you would like to register to be considered for any future AD trials.

By Rosanne M. Leipzig, MD, PhD


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Title Annotation:FROM THE EDITOR
Author:Leipzig, Rosanne M.
Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Date:Feb 22, 2018
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