NEW HOPE FOR AFFORDABLE ALZHEIMER’S TREATMENT
Cipla Medpro, the third largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in South Africa, has announced the introduction of a new generic for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, bringing hope to thousands of South Africans suffering from this costly disease.
This is according to Paul Miller – CEO of Cipla Medpro, who says that Cipla’s newly introduced product has entered the market at 35% under the current price. “As healthcare improves and greater urbanisation occurs, more people are living longer, resulting in a greater proportion of older people, worldwide. It is essential for pharmaceutical companies to invest in the development of quality generics to ensure greater access to the necessary medication.”
Miller points to statistics released by Alzheimer’s Disease International, which indicates that much of this increase will occur in developing nations. “In 2013, there were an estimated 44.4 million with dementia worldwide, with a projected increase to 75.6 million in 2030, and 135.5 million in 2050.”
Alzheimer’s, a progressive disorder which affects speech, memory and other important brain functions is said to affect 50 – 70% of dementia patients in the developed world, and according to findings released at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, treating the disease in the USA could cost 24% ($328.15 billion, in 2014 dollars) of its entire Medicare budget if treatment which delays the onset of the disease is not introduced by 2025.
Miller says that in South Africa, however, most patients or their families are forced to pay out of pocket for their medication due to the drugs not being available from the state and not being on the list of medical aid Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB).
Dr Felix Potocnik, a leading South African authority on Alzheimer’s agrees and says that since symptoms start out slowly, he advocates beginning treatment as early as possible, with a lesser dose of the combination therapy.
“Although there is currently no cure for the disease, there are two forms of treatment which slow the progression. The first are cholinesterase inhibitors which slow down the breakdown of the chemical acetylcholine in the brain.”
Dr Potocnik explains that acetylcholine is a natural compound known as a neurotransmitter, which transmits messages between nerve cells and are thus necessary for normal functioning of the brain. “The second form of treatment works by targeting glutamate, minimising the impact of toxic increases in the activity of glutamate in the brain. Cipla’s newly launched generic is the only generic of this kind available in South Africa.”
He adds that most healthcare professionals working in the field of Alzheimer’s recommend a combination of the two types of treatment for optimal results.
“The ‘combination’ approach is also supported by literature on the subject and it has become apparent that a combination of the two treatments is optimal and produces the best results”, concludes Potocnik.
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