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?
Pfizer had clues its blockbuster drug could prevent Alzheimer’s. Why didn’t it tell the world? https://t.co/sQYEVBwkme— The Washington Post (@The Washington Post)1559690311.0
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 discovered hundreds of thousands of insurance claims that rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel appeared to reduc… https://t.co/4eRfM72enR— Amee Vanderpool (@Amee Vanderpool)1559736726.0
@girlsreallyrule “He said Pfizer and other companies do not want to invest heavily in further research only to have… https://t.co/awypGqalWX— Jennifer Taub (@Jennifer Taub)1559744264.0
@jentaub @girlsreallyrule then the data needs to be made public. why? because of the amount of money invested by th… https://t.co/N26zjwoJQQ— technoglyf (@technoglyf)1559745675.0
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."
“Enbrel has reached the end of its patent life. Profits are dwindling as generic competition emerges, diminishing f… https://t.co/MIv6yEqEfj— Paul Demko (@Paul Demko)1559736994.0
“A clinical trial to prove the hypothesis would take four years and involve 3,000 to 4,000 patients, according to t… https://t.co/YUjRPbrM5M— Paul Demko (@Paul Demko)1559737280.0
@eph_ren @dmgorenstein @PostRowland @pfizer How much money do these folks need? Helping humanity? No, that’s off strategy to them. Sick.— Martha Shea Smith (@Martha Shea Smith)1559742868.0
@dmgorenstein @PostRowland @pfizer Because like many, they don't really care to cure anything. They want to keep pe… https://t.co/Uew9DlA3Mf— Metamorphosis Rox (@Metamorphosis Rox)1559743528.0
This user strongly believes that Pfizer has an obligation to make their findings public.
@Metamrphos_Rox @dmgorenstein @PostRowland @pfizer I don't really care if they didn't want to invest in more resear… https://t.co/DOYEO3KGKQ— Jason Slade (@Jason Slade)1559744877.0
@markmobility @jsinvr @pfizer There is no money in CURING people of disease. Imagine the vast amounts of wealth th… https://t.co/ZnJuy2XyAd— JoGreggy🇨🇦🏃🏼♀️ (@JoGreggy🇨🇦🏃🏼♀️)1559756697.0
@dmgorenstein @PostRowland @pfizer Proof that the strategy is to not help people but rather to make money. Not like… https://t.co/F9RtT0GmAd— Daniel Gilmore (@Daniel Gilmore)1559799557.0
Realistically a trial would cost even more than the reported estimate of $80 million and more than likely would be… https://t.co/8OgmC7Atfi— Eric Siemers (@Eric Siemers)1559731232.0
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."