The last few years have brought a slew of new treatments (and sometimes cures) for fatal and chronic diseases long considered almost untreatable, including various cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. But one foe has remained seemingly intractable: dementia associated with old age, particularly Alzheimer’s. However this situation is far from hopeless, Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks points out in a high-profile op-ed for the Financial Times. In fact, scientists are making discoveries that could lead to treatments or even a cure for Alzheimer’s. To get there, however, Ricks argues that society and government must bolster intellectual property rights, the only means by which companies can recoup the huge investments in R&D needed for a “moonshot” like curing Alzheimer’s.
- The current costs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are gigantic, with the cost of care topping $1 trillion per year globally — comparable to all spending on pharmaceuticals of all kinds.
- At the same time R&D for Alzheimer’s treatments is especially difficult, with just one out of 200 potential drugs making it to approval, compared to about one in five cancer drugs.
- A big part of the problem is the length of time required for clinical trials. Because the 20-year “clock” marketing exclusivity typically starts before the beginning of clinical trials, long trial periods eat into the amount of time the company enjoys patent exclusivity, during which it has to recoup its initial investment.
- There is a solution, however: governments can grant an additional period of “data exclusivity,” which essentially resets the clock to account for time lost to clinical trials. Promising 12 years of data exclusivity to new Alzheimer’s treatments would provide a huge incentive to engage in this costly, time-consuming, but potentially massively rewarding research.
- The full op-ed by Ricks is available here.