Many researchers are working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But they have run into an obstacle recently: a shortage of volunteers for clinical trials.
There are more than 100 research studies needing around 50,000 volunteers to help. Many studies have been funded, but there are not enough participants.
The trials do not necessarily require people who are elderly or who suffer from dementia, and are not all drug trials. Some studies require participants to do cognitive tests on home computers. Some record data on lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, or genetic risk factors.
There are studies where the volunteers try out wearable technology. All these tests collect information that can help scientists find ways to help people with Alzheimer’s.
Study subjects can benefit from participating. For example, some people who have Alzheimer’s disease may find a treatment that works. Some people may discover they have a genetic risk of dementia or already are in the early stages, and get prevention or treatment when it is most effective. Many volunteers in these studies will receive medical care for free. Also, some of the drug trials pay participants.
For people with dementia who are isolated, taking part in a study may help them socially. They can make friends with people running the studies and be part of a team. They can also feel good about helping to advance science and benefit others.
Some of the problems scientists have in recruiting study participants: In some studies both the dementia patient and a care partner must be involved. It’s harder to enroll two people. Some drug trials exclude people with certain medical conditions from participating.
Many drug studies require subjects in the early stages of dementia; at this stage there are few, or no, symptoms, so the disease hasn’t yet been identified, making it hard to find subjects.
There are sometimes legal obstacles if a dementia patient is not considered competent enough to give consent. And there are risks with experimental therapies, even though animal studies and FDA reviews are done before human trials.
For information on upcoming trials and on volunteering, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website, they have TrialMatch, a free database where you can find studies that may be right for you.