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What will memory treatment be like in the future?

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

There are so many new things coming out every week about treatment for memory, Dementia, and Alzheimer's Disease. Some of this information is very exciting, and promises to bring amazing help for people who have memory loss or are at risk for memory loss. Some of it is disappointing as well, since a new treatment for Alzheimer's has not come out in several years.


We already have several medication and non-medication treatments to improve memory and function in people with memory loss, Dementia, or Alzheimer's Disease. However, despite these multiple treatments, neurodegenerative forms of memory loss, such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Lewy Body Disease, tend to get worse over many years to the point that the person can no longer live at home or passes away.


Will there be a cure for memory loss, Dementia, or Alzheimer's Disease? There are already several forms of memory loss that are fully reversible. And there are therapies for Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease than can slow the process down. However, it seems that people often wait until their symptoms begin affecting their daily lives to seek treatment. In this scenario, many treatments for memory loss are not as effective as if the person had sought treatment when they first noticed the changes, before it began to affect their daily lives.


Current trials for new medications for Alzheimer's Disease are now enrolling patients with only mild Alzheimer's Disease, or with the signs of Alzheimer's on a brain PET scan without any memory changes. This is because once the disease lapses into the moderate to severe stage and it begins to affect a person's daily life, it has already spread so much and killed so many brain cells that it is too difficult to reverse.


So, it is best to seek treatment for memory loss when a person first starts noticing symptoms before it begins to affect their life, if they are at risk of memory loss, or if memory testing showed an abnormality. It is also best to seek treatment if family or friends are concerned but the patient is not, or if the doctor is concerned but the patient and family are not.


Currently we have therapies that may slow down Alzheimer's Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases by up to 8-10 years. However, people are living so long these days that if a person begins showing symptoms at age 70, they will still be moderately or severely affected in their 80's or 90's.


There are many medications currently being tested and evaluated for Alzheimer's Disease treatment in the mild or pre-symptomatic stage. Many of these are IV infusions against the brain proteins associated with Alzheimer's Disease, amyloid and tau. One antibody, aducanumab, slowed cognitive decline by 20% and functional decline by 40%. We are now waiting on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve it so it can be prescribed across the country by physicians. We hope that insurance will cover the cost of this expensive medication. There are also pills being developed to inhibit amyloid and tau. I believe that several of these agents will be approved for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease in the next 1 to 10 years.


There are also many medications designed to reduce brain inflammation that may fight against Alzheimer's Disease. There may also be medications that modify a person's genes or proteins to stop the accumulation of toxins associated with Alzheimer's Disease.


There may also be medications, supplements, or procedures to help the brain clear toxins or harmful proteins. Understanding how to improve the brain's blood vessel and lymphatic function may also help people with Alzheimer's Disease.


We currently have several medication and non-medication treatments for Alzheimer's, but I believe that in the next 10 years there will be several more approved, so that the person in his 60's or 70's could live to 90 or 100 with mild to moderate memory symptoms.


Will these therapies be able to completely stop the progression of Alzheimer's? Currently there are only two medical conditions that can be completely stopped (cured) by therapy, and those are cancer and infections. Every other medical condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or arthritis, is managed by one to several therapies to stop its impact on the person. But these conditions do affect a person's body over time. So, I am hopeful about new therapies being able to give many more functional years to people with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of neurodegenerative memory loss, but being able to completely stop it or reverse it may not be likely.


Non-medication treatments may reduce the entire population's risk of dementia by one-third. These include social groups, cognitive stimulation, and aerobic exercise. They more than double the effect of currently available treatments.


Currently, the money spent per year on neurodegenerative disorders is less than half that for cancer research, although there are many effective treatments and even cures for cancer. There are only about 50 trials per year for Alzheimer's, whereas there are about 500 for cardiovascular disease (which also has many effective treatments and procedures), and 2500 per year for cancer (which can be cured in some cases). In addition, the fear of brain degenerative disease is more than the fear of cancer or heart disease in the US. To increase funding for Alzheimer's research, with the hopes of finding a cure by 2025, I recommend donating to the Alzheimer's Association at alz.org.







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