Aging and Memory
New Jersey News
The Father of Aricept
Dr. Lawrence T. Friedhoff discusses his work
with Alzheimer’s Disease
Since the development of Aricept, how much has changed in the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease?
Prior to the development of Aricept, very few scientists and doctors understood or made a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease—both because of the lack of research at the time and because physicians did not see it as a distinct illness. Instead, the symptoms were attributed to what was referred to as "senile dementia" and it was assumed that they were an inevitable and untreatable consequence of aging. Aricept was approved, the conversations among the scientific and patient populations began to change. Doctors became more educated about the disease and its diagnosis, and were able to give patients hope about treating the disease. That awareness has only grown larger, and scientists across the world are deeply involved in looking for new treatments.
What current treatments on you working on today?
I'm currently leading the development of RVT-101, a new investigational treatment for patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. RVT-101 is involved in increasing the release of acetylcholine, an important chemical that is linked to brain function. RVT-101 is being tested as an add-on therapy to donepezil, the generic equivalent of Aricept. In a previous large clinical study, the combination of RVT-101 and donepezil provided patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease with significant benefits in cognition and ability to perform daily living activities, as compared to donepezil alone. We are currently conducting an even larger study to confirm those results, and we are thrilled to have Dr. Ashok Patel as one of our investigators in that study. We believe that this study, called MINDSET, could be the final step prior to the approval of RVT-101 by the FDA.I would encourage you to speak with Dr. Patel and his team to learn more about the study and see if you or a loved one might be eligible to participate.
RVT-101 is an oral, once-daily pill, and the MINDSET study does not require PET imaging, MRI monitoring, or IV infusions.-101 has been administered in over 1,300 individuals, with low rates of adverse events.
Being a caregiver to your mother, who passed from AD, what is your advice would you give to all those caregivers in the world?
Based on my experience treating Alzheimer’s patients and caring for my mother, I would advise patients and caregivers not to lose hope. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, but it’s important for caregivers to remember if you look hard and are patient, you’ll see the person you know and love is still there. Also, caregivers should recognize that members of the medical community such as Dr. Patel are working hard to develop new treatments, including through research studies like MINDSET.
PIONEERS IN DEMENTIA
Dr. Lawrence T. Friedhoff
Dr. Friedhoff, led the development and approval of the widely-used Alzheimer’s treatment Aricept (donepezil) in the 1990s. At the time, Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t well-known and there were no treatments available. Aricept is the top selling drug for Alzheimer’s disease in history. Early on in his career, before entering into clinical trials, he practiced medicine and cared for Alzheimer’s patients. He also cared for his mother who had AD. He is currently working on a new compound in a clinical trial for AD. In the past 10-12 years, although there have been compounds studied, no new drugs have been approved for Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Friedhoff feels that because of all the highly motivated people, dedicated to finding new treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease, there is much hope for new drugs and new treatments for this progressive, degenerative disease. Dr. Friedhoff says of Alzheimer’s patients:
“If you look hard and are patient, you’ll see the person you know and love is still there.”
TODAY’S CARE: quick facts
Impact on Caregivers
In 2014, friends and family of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at $217.7 billion. This is approximately 46 percent of the net value of Walmart sales in 2013 and nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonald's in 2013.
Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
Over half of primary caregivers of people with dementia take care of parents.
It is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia.
Alzheimer's takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2014.