Although many pharmaceutical companies in the market today have concentrated a great deal of their funding and their efforts into providing better treatments or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new announcement from Sanofi, the French drug maker will not be one of the companies stretching to find an Alzheimer’s treatment. With many companies looking for a solution to the illness, which is expected to impact 65 million people across the globe by 2030, the news of Sanofi’s unwillingness to put substantial investment into product development came as a shock to many.

 

Chris Viehbacher, the Chief Executive Officer of Sanofi revealed this week that they would not be committing major resources to finding an Alzheimer’s treatment. The team at Sanofi believes that they simply cannot justify the spending, time and costs needed to develop a drug to actually treat Alzheimer’s disease because the science needed to make this type of discovery simply isn’t there yet. “We have to be humble in front of science”, says Viehbacher in an interview he held at the annual meeting of PhRMA.

 

During the interview, the representative for the company stated that they need to place more attention on the basic science behind the illness to really understand the cause of the disease and what is going on and that until the science is more clear, efforts to create a cure will not be effective.

 

I find it refreshing to hear a statement which honestly reflects the current state of Alzheimer’s disease research.  Those of us who have been in the Alzheimer’s field know Viehbacher’s statement to be true.  I applaud him for making this statement publically!  Why applaud?  Sometimes hope blinds us to reality.  Viehbacher was not afraid to tell the truth.

 

I believe it underlines the importance of increased research dollars for the National Institute of Aging – a commitment from the federal government to assist the research (Thank You President Obama for adding an additional $100M in your budget for AD research!), and it highlights the importance of programs and services for people with AD and their families (Thank You President Obama for the $20M placed in the budget for this specific purpose – we need your help keeping these dollars in there!).

 

I believe Viehbacher’s statement invites another topic for conversation – we need to financially assist families who are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or related dementias.  If there is no immediate cure on the horizon – care for people with the disease is the priority.  As a nation we are depending on the family to carry this burden.  But families most often cannot do everything required themselves.  They need help.  Families are paying out of pocket for adult day programs and home care.  What if we allowed them a tax deduction or directly paid for or provided the necessary services and programs?  We need to ask the question and start the dialogue because it may be awhile till there are better treatments and - hopefully one day - a cure.