We are a scientific society in constant research
On Tuesday, November 17, Dr. Mercè Boada participated in an online debate to discuss the scientific and social challenge of preventing and treating Alzheimer's. Organized by Fundación La Caixa, Dr. Arcadi Navarro, director of the Pascual Maragall Foundation, also took part in the meeting, as well as Michelle Catanzaro, journalist specialized in research and health at El Periódico, as moderator of the event.
During the meeting, both speakers approached the particularities of Alzheimer's disease from different perspectives. Thus, Dr. Boada said that “Alzheimer's is also a sociological disease. The weight that falls on society, caregivers, the economy and health systems is significant”. Especially, both experts agreed, on the burden it represents for families, since in the case of this dementia "80% of the economic cost is assumed by the family nucleus, while in other diseases the expense is assumed by the entire society", according to Dr. Navarro.
If we talk about care and caregivers, Dr. Mercè Boada pointed out that mostly women carry the full burden of care towards their relatives suffering from cognitive impairment. “According to a study that we published on the behaviour of families, 65% of caregivers were women, and in order, who cared for the patient was the wife, secondly, the daughter and, thirdly, the wife of the eldest son". In addition, added Dr. Boada, the vast majority of people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment who lived alone were found to be women. In relation to this, Dr. Navarro valued the assistance to these caregivers to provide them with tools with the aim that they can cope with the task of caring for a relative or person with dementia.
The importance of early diagnosis
Dr. Boada highlighted the fundamental role played by general practitioners in the early detection of dementias, in addition to the importance of educating the population about performing memory studies. Even so, he points out that more and more people are aware. “In 1996 Fundació ACE opened as a day centre and our patients arrived in a moderate-severe state. Last year only 34 people visited us for the first time in serious condition and 42% of the diagnoses we made are found to be mild cognitive impairment”.
The challenge of research
“There are times when someone comes up and tells me that Alzheimer's is a failure disease. That is impossible, it is a successful disease”. Dr. Mercè Boada argues that the history of Alzheimer's has shown that the scientific community has made important steps toward a cure. “In the epidemiological field we know volume, risk factors, how it develops and in what way… later on we analysed neuronal death and we were focused on this field, and what did we obtain? Drugs that we currently supply to our patients”.
Regarding the hopes placed in Aducanumab, a drug to slow the progression of cognitive decline that is currently being evaluated by the FDA, Dr. Boada analyses that “the FDA has on a scale, on the one hand, a drug that satisfactorily covers a medical need to treat Alzheimer's patients and, on the other hand, the assessment of scientific robustness that consolidates the validity of the drug”.
While the FDA does not resolve this issue, Dr. Boada and Dr. Navarro agree that, in the hypothetical case in which the drug is not authorized, “we will continue to be optimistic”. Both researchers have ample experience to know that many other means of research are being opened behind this drug and they point out that the key to success is coordination and cooperation between teams and entities to obtain satisfactory results in clinical trials. “Success does not come from a single Foundation, or from a single laboratory. If the current pandemic has also taught us something, it is that it is vital to share data and knowledge to achieve results”, concludes Dr. Navarro. For her part, Dr. Boada clarifies "We are a scientific society in constant research that will have no limits, but we cannot be alone".
Below, you can see the full debate: