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June 27, 2006
Wyeth's CEO Rober Essner Calls For Stepped Up Alzheimer's Effort
In an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post, Wyeth CEO Robert Essner called for a new partnership to accelerate Alzheimer's research, stating that "it is imperative for industry, scientists and regulators to work together to help us reach our goal even faster. We need a sense of urgency, a commitment to collaboration that will lead to a concerted, focused effort to prevent this impending epidemic."
America is getting serious about preparing for the possibility of an outbreak of avian flu. Would that it could muster the same sense of urgency for a disease that is already here and is certain to become epidemic. The disease is Alzheimer's. It will claim one in 10 baby boomers, create a personal and fiscal nightmare for their families, and drain -- if not bankrupt -- state and federal health-care budgets. Medicare now pays one-third of all its health-care funds for some 4.5 million Alzheimer's patients. Are we ready for three times that number?
Alzheimer's doesn't have to be an inevitable part of aging. It is a disease for which research can find a cure, or at least a more effective treatment. In that way, it could be like HIV-AIDS -- a disease that, for most sufferers, went from a lethal diagnosis to a treatable chronic condition within six years of its discovery. One breakthrough AIDS drug rapidly led to another, because we mobilized pandemic-strength muscle against it. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration created review and approval processes that helped new therapies for AIDS reach people who needed them years ahead of what would have otherwise been possible.
I couldn't agree more, and in the coming months you will be hearing much more about how a new industry organization that I am in the process of building will play an important role in accelerating treatments for all neurological diseases and psychiatric illness.
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