Clinical Trials Pave the Path to 2025

By: Amy O'Connor

Today’s guest blog is from Phyllis Ferrell, Lilly’s Vice President, Global Alzheimer’s Disease Platform Team.

Today, more than 5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, though many of those people remain undiagnosed. Alzheimer’s disease is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Early detection is critical to improving care and accelerating efforts to find treatments that slow or prevent the disease. If we don’t change course to reduce barriers to earlier intervention, such as stigma and lack of awareness of cognitive symptoms, the number of Americans with this devastating disease is estimated to triple by 2050.

In an effort to evaluate the current realities and challenges of Alzheimer’s disease drug development, a working group of leading Alzheimer’s disease experts published an academic paper titled “Drug Development in Alzheimer’s Disease: The Path to 2025.” The paper states that under current conditions, only a limited number of disease-modifying therapies have a chance to be approved and available to patients by 2025. The findings are a troubling and stark reminder that we must all work together with urgency to make a difference for patients and their caregivers.  

Let’s heed the advice of the experts. The Path to 2025 paper identifies the realities and challenges of achieving this 2025 treatment goal and offers solutions to stimulate progress. One recommended area of focus targets improving clinical trials – and I believe this should be tackled with the utmost urgency.

Clinical trials are the backbone of getting innovative medicines to patients. Today, at least 50,000 volunteers, both with and without Alzheimer's disease, are urgently needed to participate in more than 130 actively enrolling clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. If we can’t quickly enroll these trials, we won’t be able to find the solutions we desperately need.

If you are 55 years or older, and you are not yet in a clinical trial, why not find out more about it?  Even if you are cognitively healthy there are many opportunities to participate. If you are a caregiver and can’t make the time commitment to visit a trial site, there are virtual studies like the Health-e Brain Study that can help the cause. If you believe you may have early symptoms, please consider research as one of your options. Participating in a therapeutic clinical trial isn’t for everyone, but even participating in the patient registries or an observational study can help advance science and may lead to a cure for this devastating disease. Shouldn’t we all consider volunteering to be part of the solution?

I am so thankful for and applaud the efforts of the talented, brilliant people working to tackle this disease and all the study volunteers who are essential contributors. There is more we can do, and no one is proposing a wait and see approach. If you would like more information on clinical trials, please visit, or visit the Alzheimer’s Association Trial Match site.