Yes, Alzheimer's is everywhere. And I'm not referring to the new study that forecasts that the number of people worldwide with Alzheimer's Disease will quadruple between now and 2050 to more than 100 million cases. Staggering, sobering, daunting, scary.
No, I'm referring to the sudden critical mass of media coverage of the disease. It's as if the national media cabal (no, conspiracy theorists there really isn't one--that I know of, at least) had a meeting and decided that this week it will be all about Alzheimer's. It's possible that every other major media outlet had the same idea we did--to build stories around the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington, DC.
Ahead of the event where I reported live yesterday--we put together a piece on the disease, some of the leading experimental drugs, the companies developing them and the potential multi-billion dollar market. And we complemented that with news and CEO interviews from a couple of the companies that presented stock-moving information at the conference (MDVN,NRMX.)
My producer, Ruth, and her editor finished cutting our Alzheimer's story last Friday afternoon. That evening, I decided that since I'd be covering the conference on Monday that'd be a good idea to see the new movie, "Away From Her", about a couple grappling with the disease and its effect on their relationship. I'm not a movie critic, but it's one of the most powerful, moving films I've seen in awhile. And Julie Christie gives an Oscar-worthy performance. The next morning when I start my car to go to the gym, NPR is doing a long piece on the widow of an artist who had Alzheimer's and who had painted self-portraits that depicted the disease's toll on his face and psyche.
Then, the next morning I open "The New York Times" Sunday Business section and lo and
behold there's a front-page, above-the-fold piece under the headline, "Taking On Alzheimer's". That night while watching the first hour of the Tony's on CBS before switching over to HBO to watch Tony (count me among those who thought their TV went on the fritz at the end) I saw a promo for an Alzheimer's story on the Monday "CBS Evening News". Then yesterday the new "Newsweek" hits the newsstand. And guess what's on the cover? You got it. "Caregiving & Alzheimer's".
And then this morning I open my hotel-room door to get the free "USA Today" dropped on the threshold and staring up at me is the front-page, above-the-fold headline, "The young face of Alzheimer's."
Kris Jenner who manages the Health Sciences Fund for T. Rowe Price says there is no greater opportunity in big pharma right now than Alzheimer's. Some analysts think if the major drug companies and biotechs working on Alzheimer's treatments--dare I say, cures--are successful that the segment could explode from a $1 billion business today to as much as a $15 billion business over the next several years.
With that kind of money at stake and the challenge of addressing the overwhelming new estimates about the rapidly rising prevalence of Alzheimer's, let's hope the ubiquitous media coverage this week isn't just a flash in the pan.
Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com