Alzheimer’s drug promising? Page 1. Alzheimer’s drug not so promising? Page B12

Not sure how STAT played this on their site. In the the print version of The Boston Globe, it ran it on A1 Thursday

Hopes rise again for a drug to slow Alzheimer’s disease

File Oct 30, 9 54 16 AM

The follow-up in today’s print edition ran on B12, with this headline: Interpreting an Alzheimer’s trial.

Have yet to find in on the Globe web site, but here’s the STAT version, with their headline.

Here’s why Biogen lost $7 billion overnight despite ‘positive’ Alzheimer’s data



5/7: Boston health events this week

Thanks to Boston Science and Engineering Lectures for listings. We  urge you to double-check the “Details” links for changes and cancellations and to note the asterisks regarding limited access to some events.


4898606253_4e2af86630_m2p.  “Recent Insights into the Protein Biology of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.”  Dennis J. Selkoe.   Brigham & Women’s:  Building for Transformative Medicine, 3rd Floor Conference Space, 60 Fenwood Road.   Details.*

3:30 “Digital Transformation in Healthcare & Telehealth for One Sixth of Humanity: The Apollo Story.”   K. Ganapathy and Sushant Tripathy.   MIT:  66-144.   Details, Abstract.   This event will be streamed.mclean-jpg

4:30 – 6:30p.  “Sleep: What You Need and How to Get It.”   A panel discussion.   MIT:  E51, Wong Auditorium.   Details.


12:30p.  “Supplements and Health: Sorting the Facts.”   A panel discussion.   HSPH:   The Leadership Studio.   Details, Abstract, Registration.   This event will be streamed. RSVP to attend


7 – 1p.  “Massachusetts Prostate Cancer Symposium.”   Boston Marriott Copley Place.  Details, Registration.

*Admission to buildings in Harvard’s medical area often requires ID issued by a “Harvard Medical School Affiliate”.  Persons interested in events in the medical area that are not explicitly public,  do not invite registration, might want to email the person cited in the details page.\

Selkoe to discuss #amyloid and #Alzheimer’s in wake of another disappointing drug study

A recent story in The Atlantic asks “Is the Leading Theory About Alzheimer’s Wrong?

1905: Research at McLean

For years, scientist have been arguing about whether amyloid protein in the brain is a cause,or just a symptom of condition.  Pharma has been confident — or desperate — enough in the science to bet on amyloid clearing drugs, but they haven’t turned out to be very good bets. So far, none has proved effective.

On Tuesday morning, one of the chief proponents of the theory, Harvard’s Dennis Selkoe, will give a talk at McLean Hospital, the storied psychiatric facility in Belmont.  Entitled  “New Insights into the Protein Biology of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases,” it takes place at 11 am in room 132 of at the hospital’s de Marneffe Building.

And, if those in audience have read the Atlantic piece — in which Selkoe is quoted — they may have questions about Merck’s recent decision to abandon test on what was once considering a promising treatment. .



After Merck’s announcement last week, one neurologist told Bloomberg that “there is mounting evidence—of which this is another piece—that removing amyloid once people have established dementia is closing the barn door after the cows have left.” An advisor to a life-sciences venture-capital firm tweeted, “I’ve been a long-term adherent of the amyloid hypothesis, but starting to feel like this”: “This” was a gif of the Black Knight from Monty Python, arms missing but still adamant he had suffered nothing worse than a flesh wound.

And well, the amyloid hypothesis is not dead yet. Large clinical trials targeting amyloid are still underway—either using new, potentially more powerful anti-amyloid drugs or trying out the previously failed drugs in patients with less advanced Alzheimer’s. These trials will likely affirm the amyloid hypothesis or kill it for good.

#STATnews asks: Are #Alzheimer’s numbers inflated?

CaptureIn her “Gut Check” column, STAT’s Sharon Begley notes that a NEJM report  from Boston University’s Framingham Heart Study claims that “The percent of people developing dementia each year is falling significantly… raising hope that some cases can be prevented and, possibly, that the worst forecasts of a “looming dementia crisis in the United States are overblown

The study notes that other evidence has the Alzheimer’s Association “sticking with its projection that, by 2050, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s will nearly triple, to 13.8 million Americans.

… The reluctance to dial down those forecasts might reflect “public health catastrophism,” added Dr. Jeremy Greene of Johns Hopkins, who, together with Jones, coauthored an accompanying perspective article on the Framingham study.

“It’s risky for advocates [to temper the most dire forecasts] for fear that it might bring a loss of funding,” Greene said.”

For more on this, see this list of stories on the topic of pharmaceutical support for non-profit patient groups. A bit dated, but USA Today offered an update in January.

Health charities say they work with drug companies in the search for cures. Corporate support is a standard form of fundraising for non-profits. The stories linked above question whether those relationships — and the dollars that come with them — bias these health groups. Will they challenge the efficacy of a new drug if they get tens of thousands from the drug’s  maker?

So, how much does the Alzheimer’s Association get from drug makers?  No one knows –non-profits are not required to report donations. Deep into its annual report, you’ll find a list of donors, but not exact amounts of donations.




Amgen Foundation



Biogen Idec

Eli Lilly

Forum Pharmaceuticals


Janssen Pharmaceutical


Some of the same companies sponsored the group’s annual conference.




Nurses and nursing homes: Watchdog health reporting at the Globe

CaptureHow evil is it to charge people for Alzheimer’s care and not deliver it? How dangerous is it for people to go around saying they’re licensed nurses when they are not?

CaptureStuff like this is hard to track because, last we checked, the people in charge of records like these were not real helpful.  Liberal Massachusetts is known for its strict public records laws.

Kay Lazar of the Globe had this yesterday:

State regulators are citing more than four dozen Massachusetts nursing homes for advertising dementia care services when they don’t actually offer the kind of care required to make such a claim, according to the Department of Public Health.

and Felice Freyer had this Sunday, with a follow up Monday:

Massachusetts regulators revoked or suspended the professional licenses of 13 nurses after discovering recently that the health care workers lied about having nursing degrees or being licensed in other states, health department documents show.

The action sparked questions about the background checks state regulators rely on to issue licenses to thousands of nurses and applicants in 10 other health fields, including pharmacists, psychologists, podiatrists, and optometrists.

TedMed2012: Alzheimer’s research and a”ticking time bomb” from Brandeis

Say what you will about TED talks, they do offer an impressive list of speakers. TEDMED is underway in DC. And while the organization’s own site features more videos about parties than talks, you can find a nice post here about what two local researchers had to say.  From Chemical and Engineering News

Gregory Petsko knows why he came to TEDMED. “I’m looking for Al Gore,” he told me flat-out over lunch. Folks who know Petsko know the former Brandeis University biochemistry department chair isn’t one to mince words. And he’s nailed the reason why an academic might want to look outside traditional conferences and soak up some of the TEDMED aura. He’s looking for a charismatic champion to take up a biomedical cause: in Petsko’s case, it’s support for research in Alzheimer’s disease.

Petsko and Reisa Sperling, director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, talked about Alzheimer’s at TEDMED on Wednesday. Both talks were cast as calls to action. Just consider the introduction Petsko got from TEDMED chair and founder Jay S. Walker: “This is a man who hears a bomb ticking.”

Globe, WBUR on Alzheimer’s disease

Both The Globe and WBUR have had recent series on Alzheimer’s disease.

On Sunday, the Globe ran the last of a four-part, year-long series on a family coping losing their patriarch to early stage Alzheimer’s.

Bruce Vincent sits at a table in a stark room at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Charlestown research center, just a few minutes into what will be an hourlong test of his fading memory.

“Next, I will read you a list of words,’’ says research assistant Natacha Lorius, who sits across the table from him. “I need you to repeat the words back to me, in any order.

Suds, noose, spree, proxy, simile, nectar,’’ she says, reading slowly from a list of about 15 words.

When she finishes, Vincent, still raven haired and nearly wrinkle free at 49, stares at her for several seconds.

“I don’t remember any of them,’’ he says.

Alzheimer’s has recently quickened its devastating pace, snatching from Vincent more social skills and abilities than it had since his diagnosis three years earlier. He has a form of the disease that strikes at a young age.

Gone in the latest slide is the easy back and forth of conversation, the ability to sort and price products at the family’s Westminster grocery store that he once ran, and his recall of words, and sometimes entire conversations, from a few minutes earlier. Often he hovers, almost childlike, looking for direction in everyday tasks such as serving salad from a bowl to a dinner plate.

When Vincent shoveled his driveway after the snowstorm last month, he inexplicably walked dozens of yards to the backyard to empty each scoop, instead of simply tossing the snow to the side.

As the disease accelerates, Vincent’s family treasures all the more the bedrock pieces of his personality that remain — his optimism, his gentle nature, and especially his boyish humor.

“If I didn’t have Alzheimer’s,’’ Vincent confided after completing the memory-testing session, “that would have been a blast.’’