In 2015, drug manufacturer Pfizer discovered that one of their drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could significantly lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Pfizer sat on that information and did nothing about it.
According to an explosive investigative report by The Washington Post, Pfizer deliberately chose not to pursue further research after finding out that their anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel (etanercept) could reduce Alzheimer's by 64%.
The Post obtained company documents that stated:
"Enbrel could potentially safely prevent, treat and slow progression of Alzheimer's disease."
So why would Pfizer withhold such potentially life-changing information?
It all boils down to exorbitant cost.
A clinical trial to determine Enbrel's effect on those at risk of Alzheimer's could cost upwards of $80 million.
Pfizer defended their decision to avoid the trial due to an assumption that the size of the large molecules would be too large to reach the brain.
They also wanted to prevent outside researchers from reaching a "dead-end path."
Another speculation for the drug company's decision to forgo with a trial has to do with Enbrel's now-expired 20-year patent.
A former executive told The Post:
"It probably was high risk, very costly, very long-term drug development that was off-strategy."
This user strongly believes that Pfizer has an obligation to make their findings public.
The connection between Alzheimer's disease and rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown.
RA is an auto-immune disease caused by the tumor necrosis factor-alpha, (TNF) – a cell signaling protein involved in systemic inflammation.
Richard Chou, MD, PhD found that in people over 65 years of age, the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease was more than twice as high among those with RA as in those without it, according to the study published in CNS Drugs.
Chou and his team of researchers at Dartmouth and Harvard discovered that the use of Enbrel reduced the risk of Alzheimer's based on data from insurance claims, the same way Pfizer came to a similar conclusion.
At the time, Chou told The NY Times that:
"We've identified a process in the brain, and if you can control this process with etanercept, you may be able to control Alzheimer's, but we need clinical trials to prove and confirm it."