Pharmaceutical Giant Pfizer Pulls Plug On Alzheimer's And Parkinson's Drug Research

Pfizer logo on a building in Tel Aviv, Israel. StockStudio/Shutterstock

Pfizer, one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical giants, is going to ditch their research efforts into new drugs to fight against Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Pfizer justified the move by claiming it will help them "bring meaningful new therapies to market, and will bring the most value for shareholders and patients."

"As a result of a recent comprehensive review, we have made the decision to end our neuroscience discovery and early development efforts and re-allocate spend to those areas where we have strong scientific leadership and that will allow us to provide the greatest impact for patients," Pfizer said in a statement given to NPR.

Translated from management speak, this means that the company is shifting their funding to make way for drugs that are more likely to be successful, make it to market, and be profitable.

The move follows costly failed attempts to find effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease. In 2012, Pfizer and their buddies at Johnson & Johnson ended development of the drug bapineuzuma after trials found it didn't work better than placebos in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's.

“Of course it’s disappointing to hear that Pfizer, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, will be terminating their research efforts in neuroscience, including Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery,” Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, said in a statement.

“The brain is the most complex organ in the body and developing drugs to treat brain diseases is a tremendous challenge, but with no new drug for dementia in the last 15 years, this will come as a heavy blow to the estimated 46.8 million people currently living with the condition across the globe.”

It isn’t just health experts and sufferers of the diseases who are not happy with the news. The decision also means that 300 staff will be cut from the neuroscience research and early development programs in Andover and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Groton, Connecticut.

Pfizer did say, however, they plan to start a new venture fund committed to neuroscience.

Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are two common degenerative brain disorders. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, resulting in difficulties with thinking, memory, problem-solving, or language, while Parkinson's disease affects the motor system, resulting in shaking and difficulty walking, as well as thinking and behavioral problems.

There are still no available treatments that stop or reverse the progression of these diseases, although scientists are slowly but surely getting closer to understanding them.

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