Pfizer, the world’s third largest drug maker, has decided to stop its research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Not only will 300 researchers be put out of a job in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but the millions of people living with a neurological disorder will also be left with fifteen-year-old, relatively ineffective drugs.
The company makes a valid point, in that ceasing to fund an expensive, uncertain field would enable it to direct its resources towards more promising research. In the case of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, clinical tests are very case-specific, and therefore often take over ten years until completion. This requires a huge amount of time, money and effort, especially considering the high risk of failure involved in neurological study.
However, a large corporation such as Pfizer is far from broke. One of the reasons stated for the discontinuation of funding to neurological research was being more profitable to its investors; a lovely thought, but what about the patients and their families? The only treatments available for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s date from decades ago, and merely alleviate the symptoms. They’re better than nothing, admittedly, but a treatment able to remedy the biological cause of those diseases is sorely needed.
It is of course logical to redirect funds in such a way as to save the greatest number of lives possible. But if every time research didn’t advance as fast as expected and it was sidelined to save money, no cure would ever be found for anything. Maybe if the American healthcare system were to become a tiny bit more concerned with its patients rather than economic profit, such cuts would not happen as easily. Given the current political climate in the United States, there is little hope of governmental funding miraculously appearing to save the day, but let’s at least hope the tendency doesn’t spread too far and the redirected funds will be used towards something worthwhile.