Interdisciplinary panel offers solutions to improve recruitment for Alzheimer’s clinical trials

Unless cures are found, Alzheimer’s dementia is projected to affect nearly 13 million Americans by 2050 — overwhelming families, caregivers and our healthcare system. Yet only one new therapeutic, aducanumab, has come to market in the past 20 years, and therapeutic progress remains hampered for several reasons: recruiting study participants in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s is more challenging than other disease areas, the trials take longer to complete and they are more costly. A significant increase in the number of qualified volunteers from diverse backgrounds will be needed in the coming years for clinical trials for Alzheimer’s to be successful.

To develop solutions to overcome some of the steepest barriers to recruitment, the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics and the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (ATRI) joined with Gates Ventures to convene more than 35 experts from across the private and public sectors. The advisory panel was chaired by Julie Zissimopoulos, Paul Aisen and Jessica Langbaum. A paper published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia identifies actionable and inclusive solutions to accelerate the development of novel therapies for Alzheimer’s disease that resulted from the panel.

“The steepest barriers to more efficient Alzheimer’s clinical trials are those that are keeping potential volunteers from ever participating in the first place,” says Zissimopoulos, co-director of the Aging and Cognition Program at the Schaeffer Center. “Reducing these barriers to support progress on Alzheimer’s treatments — even modest progress — would have a profound impact on the communities affected by this disease.”

Barriers Limit Access

“There is no one answer,” says Aisen, who directs ATRI and oversees many clinical trials. “These issues must be addressed from various angles. Recruitment, however, is the major bottleneck.”

Current models prevent approximately 99% of eligible volunteers from being referred to or considering trial enrollment. Black and Latino populations are especially underrepresented, even though they face higher risks of Alzheimer’s disease than white Americans.

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