Alzheimer’s researchers fight delays caused by COVID-19

Alzheimer’s researchers fight delays caused by COVID-19
Medical experts are worried that the COVID-19 pandemic has put delays on the search for a cure for Alzheimer's. (Source: Roper St. Francis)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Medical experts are worried that the COVID-19 pandemic has put delays on the search for a cure for Alzheimer's.

John Dwyer is the president of the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation, which aims to reduce the time, cost, and improve the quality of Alzheimer’s clinical trials.

He says Alzheimer’s trials tend to be the most expensive and longest pharmaceutical trials.

“The need for a therapy is so important, we haven’t had a new therapy approved in the United States since 2003,” Dwyer said. “We’ve waited 17 years and the only way to get a therapy is clinical trials.”

Clinical trials have been put on hold for months, and now researchers are slowly starting to bring patients back in safely.

Wayne Vereen has been part of Roper St. Francis’s Alzheimer trials for six years. The 73-year-old says he looks forward to coming down to Charleston, exploring the area, and going to his appointments.

He says he's a volunteer because of his father, who had the disease.

“Knowing that he did not recognize anyone in the family and didn’t know who we were, that’s extremely hard,” Vereen said. “Quite frankly no one deserves to have that happen to them in their life, so that kind of got me interested in trying to find out what I could do.”

Vereen hasn't had an appointment at the center for the last two months because of the pandemic. Now, the center is implementing safety protocols in order to continue the research.

“One of the major problems that distinguishes Alzheimer’s research from others, is the need of the patients to have trust in the treatment [and] in the research team. To establish that relationship in a virtual world is extremely difficult,” Roper St. Francis Chief Research & Innovation Officer Dr. Jacobo Mintzer said.

Mintzer says they have established safety precautions in order to see patients in person. They have also created a “mixed model” that also allows them to connect with patients virtually when needed.

“Patients with diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, for them research is treatment. Every day is extremely precious, so to stop research is not an option,” he said.

In the near future, Mintzer says they will have new treatments for Alzheimer’s patients available at Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

For people interested in learning or participating in the clinical trials, you can call (843) 724-2302.

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