For Patients: Why Clinical Trial Participation Is Essential for Alzheimer’s Research

On the heels of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we’re taking some time to help spread the word about the important role clinical research plays in the understanding, treatment, and prevention of the disease, as well as the positive impact clinical trial participation can have on your life and the lives of others affected by Alzheimer’s. In this post, we will discuss some of the common misconceptions about clinical trial participation, and explore why participating in an Alzheimer’s clinical trial may be one of the best ways to help prevent, cure, treat, the disease.

About Alzheimer’s: A Public Health Issue

Did you know that 5.7 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s Disease? By 2050 that number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million. Add to that the impact Alzheimer’s has on the health and wellbeing of caregivers and the numbers of those affected skyrockets. (Alzheimer’s Association)

According to Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia – a group of brain disorders characterized by brain cell degeneration. As the disease progresses, patients experience lapses in memory and changes in thinking and reasoning that may impair their ability to complete everyday tasks that were once routine. Ultimately, the disease is fatal, and the toll it takes on a patient’s loved ones and caregivers is extreme. Around 83% of people providing care for Alzheimer’s patients are family members or other unpaid caregivers, and compared to those who care for people without dementia, Alzheimer’s caregivers are twice as likely to report high rates of financial, emotional, and physical stress. (Alzheimer’s Association)

When it comes to the inner-workings of the human brain, there are still a lot of unknowns. What we do know about it is primarily the result of research. If you currently live with Alzheimer’s Disease, clinical trials could be an opportunity to have more control over your treatment options. If you are not living with Alzheimer’s, clinical studies might be a great opportunity for you to help expand the current body of knowledge and treatment options; because so little is known about the human brain, the search for Alzheimer’s preventions and treatments also requires the study of brains that are unaffected by Alzheimer’s. New studies are seeking volunteers every day.

Current Treatments

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and is the only top 10 cause of death currently without a prevention, cure, or significant treatment to slow its progress. Luckily, a large body of research exists, with scientists, doctors and patients working toward better treatments, therapies and support for both patients and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s.

How Your Participation in a Clinical Trial Can Help

As with any medical intervention, there are potential risks and benefits to clinical trial participation. It is important to note that only the most promising research treatments get to the point of patient involvement.

It is important to note that only the most promising research treatments make it to the point of being offered to patients. Because Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease, all drug therapies and treatments are founded on researcher’s current understandings of how the brain works. The human brain is incredibly complex, and because so little is really known about how the brain works, there are important research participation opportunities for people not currently experiencing symptoms of dementia. Researchers understand the reality of the toll providing care for people with Alzheimer’s has on caregiver health and wellbeing, and studies are also being conducted to help understand how to provide support for caregivers.

Conclusion

Clinical trial participation is necessary, especially for a disease like Alzheimer’s. This disease is the fifth highest cause of death in the United States, and is currently the only top-ten illness that is without effective prevention, treatment, or cure. Currently, no drug has been shown to effectively treat or slow Alzheimer’s symptoms, and a few major drug companies have even stopped running their drug therapy trials.

This by no means indicates that Alzheimer’s is untreatable or incurable; what this means is that there is a huge need for more innovative research and participants willing to help progress the available treatments and current understandings of the human brain.