Find Alzheimer's clinical trials in your area »

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is increasing in prevalence in the United States. The Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communication estimates that the disease affects up to 4.5 million Americans. The increasing number of diagnoses is partly due to an aging population, but heredity is also a factor.

Clinical trials are volunteer-based research. Participants are given a certain treatment and monitored for effectiveness. AD clinical trials help discover treatments to extend the lifespans of patients. Preventive measures may also be uncovered. The success of such clinical trials is dependent on volunteers.

Common Clinical Trials

AD is a degenerative disease that can eventually lead to dementia. New drug treatments are at the forefront of AD clinical trials. But before a new drug is made available, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires proof of safety and effectiveness. A group of participants will take the new drug, while another group might be given a placebo. Researchers look at symptomatic differences to gauge whether the treatment works or not.

There is a possible link between certain genes and the development of AD later in life. This explains why the disease can run in families. Researchers use clinical trials to study genes with a long-term goal of preventing AD.

Other types of AD clinical trials include:

  • supplements
  • neuropsychological tests
  • surgery
  • caregiver training
  • outcomes from support groups
  • diet changes
  • exercise and brain health

Another possible area of study is location. The number of elderly adults in a certain location is a factor, but environmental factors can also be at work. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that Washington State had the highest mortality rate from AD. Hawai’i had the lowest rate.

Pros and Cons of Participation

According to the CDC, AD ranks number six in causes of American deaths. In adults over 65, it’s the fifth leading cause. While many factors can contribute to the number of AD cases, researchers believe that they can find ways to lower these numbers. Clinical trials help find new treatments and potential cures.

Despite how helpful clinical trials are, participation isn’t for everyone. Talk to your doctor and consider the pros, cons, and requirements of participating before signing up. Among the benefits of clinical trials are:

  • contributing helpful data to AD studies
  • help with diagnoses
  • obtaining free treatments
  • finding new treatments that work
  • obtaining support through new connections

Some of the cons to consider include:

  • no monetary compensation for most trials
  • treatments may not work
  • possible placement in placebo group
  • time consumed in traveling to trial site

Above all, it’s important to discuss the possibility of an AD clinical trial with your doctor. In some cases, the pros outweigh the cons.