What Insights Can Alzheimer’s Disease Research Glean From COVID-19?

By Paula Penney, Executive Director, Franchise Area Lead Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognition-Global Project Management,

 

For World Alzheimer’s Month this September, we explore the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has provided new learnings that can inform Alzheimer’s disease research.

As we recognize September as World Alzheimer’s Month, we take time to acknowledge the unmet medical needs of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. In 2020, the impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic have been particularly acute for those living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need to harness innovative clinical trial operations in service to increasingly sophisticated trial designs in order to facilitate the participation of patients with Alzheimer’s disease in interventional clinical research.” says Dr. Michael Murphy, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at Worldwide Clinical Trials.  

In the clinical trial space, it can seem as if the quest for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines has stolen the thunder of so many other studies in important therapeutic areas, not the least of which is Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is therapeutic research is not a zero-sum game. While there can be no doubt we are passing through a challenging time, we also see signs that this period of disruption is providing a multitude of lessons that can be applied to the future of Alzheimer’s disease research.

The Alzheimer’s Voice Gets Amplified

In Future Gazing: COVID-19 and Dementia, a recent webinar hosted by Alzheimer’s Disease International, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders in Alzheimer’s care and treatment discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on their patients. In his address, Glenn Rees, Chair of ADI, said, “The crisis has given us all an opportunity to talk to our governments about the opportunities to do better for people with dementia at this most difficult time.” The pandemic and its repercussions have shone a bright light on the unique vulnerabilities of Alzheimer’s patients, thereby giving their advocates an opportunity to articulate their needs more distinctly. For those of us seeking novel therapies, the amplification of the needs of Alzheimer’s patients may create opportunities for us to gain more support for the treatments we are developing.

Science Accelerates Its Pace

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sense of urgency within the therapeutic research community to find cures and vaccines for the novel coronavirus. We are seeing unprecedented levels of engagement among organizations who traditionally have taken a much more proprietary approach to their research efforts. Regulatory agencies have become more responsive with sponsors and CROs, with respect to both COVID-related and non-COVID projects. This heightened level of engagement and collaboration among clinical trial stakeholders may just be a passing feature of this moment. However, we in the pharmaceutical research space ­– as well as patients and their advocates – are learning just what we are capable of achieving. We’ve set the bar higher for all future activities, and that new standard for productivity will extend beyond the pandemic. 

Innovation Is Ready for Its Close-Up

Clinical trial operations in all therapeutic areas have had to pivot in the wake of new safety protocols to protect study subjects and staff against transmission of COVID-19. Virtual solutions like telemedicine, electronic data collection, and remote monitoring have been waiting in the wings for their opportunity to show what they can do, and the current crisis has provided that moment. In order to limit person-to-person contact, technologies that were once considered “edgy” have now become imperative to a trial’s ability to keep going.

According to Dr. Murphy, “Assessments conducted within home, in clinic, and hybrid designs employing both modalities, maintain data integrity during study conduct, while minimizing possible risk particularly for those patients who have comorbidities in addition to dementia.”

As these solutions gain more acceptance in the current crisis through necessity, we anticipate them becoming commonplace, creating the prospect of less burdensome clinical trial participation for Alzheimer’s patients in the future.

An Alzheimer’s CRO for Our Times

Are you trying to keep your ongoing Alzheimer’s clinical trial above water through this challenging period? Or perhaps you’re considering the feasibility of embarking on a new investigative program. Worldwide Clinical Trials is a CRO tailor-made for times like these. The dedicated team of experts at Worldwide Clinical Trials has the experience, the expertise, and the agility to navigate your product through these unprecedented times.

Learn more about Worldwide’s 40 years of uncommon tenacity in Alzheimer’s disease research.