alzheimer's disease drug development

The fourth annual review by the Cleveland Clinic on Alzheimer’s disease drug development pipeline highlighted several new advances in the field.

Alzheimer’s disease drug development programs have a high failure rate and only a few treatments are currently available. Therefore, analysis of the Alzheimer’s drug development pipeline can provide some insight into the evolution of drugs being developed, along with ways to improve the development process.

Using the website, Cleveland Clinic recently identified and analyzed all Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials involving all new potential therapies. They also looked at innovations used in the trials such as design, outcomes, populations, and biomarkers. The review examined all clinical trials from 2018 to 2019 and was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Trials Interventions (TRCI).

The review highlighted several advances in the field of Alzheimer’s disease drug development that have occurred. These include improvements to clinical trial design and new guidelines, which include more detailed criteria for research and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic attribute this progress to increased collaborations between researchers, which has elevated research to extraordinary new levels of drug development. These collaborations have resulted in increased funding, more potential drugs, and diversity in the pipeline.

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of amyloid plaques, hard insoluble plaques that accumulate between neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. Most of the research has previously centered around therapies targeting amyloid plaques. However, Scientists are now reexamining the role of these therapies and the trend in this year’s review highlights a move towards a more diverse approach to attacking Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s disease drug development pipeline includes therapies targeting tau tangles (another hallmark of the disease), neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory agents, regenerative medicine (stem cell therapies), and metabolic interventions such as physical activity.

With failures in the last few clinical trials, researchers were worried this would have a devastating impact on drug development for Alzheimer’s disease and participation rates. But after conducting the review, Cleveland Clinic scientists were encouraged by finding an increase in the number of drugs being developed. With each failure, lessons are learned. However, for clinical trials to happen, participation is important. As the pipeline grows, so does the number of people needed to participate in the trials to test the new therapies. Therefore, researchers hope through the publication of this review, the public will see how important clinical trial participation is to the finding of new treatments.

One new important trend noted in the review is a move towards testing drugs on people with minimal signs of Alzheimer’s or as a prevention method.  Several prevention studies are now being conducted with patients who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease.

.The Cleveland Clinic review highlights the progress being made in the Alzheimer’s disease drug development pipeline; new agents are being developed for new targets, as well as innovative clinical trial designs, and incorporation of diverse populations. Researchers anticipate improvements in the success rate of the drugs developed to potentially prevent and/or treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Written by Lacey Hizartzidis, PhD



  1. Jeffrey Cummings, Garam Lee, Aaron Ritter, Marwan Sabbagh, Kate Zhong. Alzheimer’s disease drug development pipeline: 2019, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, Volume 5, 2019, Pages 272-293.
  2. Cleveland Clinic Releases Fourth Installment of Annual Alzheimer’s Disease Drug Development Pipeline Report. Cleveland Clinic Newsroom Website Accessed July 11, 2019.
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