This week is National Drug Facts Week, “a national health observance for teens to promote local events that use NIDA science to shatter the myths about drugs.” Be sure to check out the dedicated website to find events in your area, take the National Dug IQ Challenge, and find out how different drugs affect the brain and body.
There’s also a Chat Day on Friday, January 30, which is “an annual live online chat held between high school students and NIDA scientists… Students from around the country ask the questions they most want the answers to about drugs and drug abuse, including drug effects, how to help friends or family that are abusing drugs, and what causes addiction.” Transcripts for previous years’ chats are available online.
And speaking of awareness, our own Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is coming up fast! March 16-22 find events around the world dedicated to the brain, and help us celebrate 20 years of brain awareness outreach.
In the past few years, patients and families have watched as several large drug-makers have trimmed or closed their labs investigating new treatments for brain disorders. Meanwhile the need for preventives and treatments for schizophrenia, depression, bipolar illness, and other ailments remains—and the need for help for people developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias grows exponentially.
Taking a promising treatment from basic-science labs to everyday use for patients has always been risky. Drugs take a long time to develop and test; those that alter the brain and nervous system take longer than most and can cost more. The repeated, expensive, last-stage failures of drugs targeting Alzheimer’s have added to the chilling effect. What could help re-balance the scales, and entice manufacturers back into the pipeline?
That was the topic of a two-day workshop held at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC, this week. The main question, said co-organizer Dennis Choi, was “Can feasible incentives be put into place that would bring drug makers back into central nervous system research?” More than six dozen researchers, policymakers, patent lawyers, industry representatives, foundations, and advocates for patients chewed on ideas new and old.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to witness people documenting their daily rituals—the food they’re eating, the clothes they’re wearing, who they’re with, or where they’re going. At times it feels as though the public is obsessed with preserving these seemingly insignificant moments, as if it’s crucial that not a single detail is forgotten. But for the increasingly large number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, this obsession with remembrance is a routine that signifies their cognitive descent. With the number of cases escalating, public awareness is essential to build support for more research to develop treatments and identify preventive steps.
Within five days of its release, the movie Still Alice has already been nominated for eight awards for its portrayal of a family that is forced to confront this deadly disease. In the film, Julianne Moore depicts an acclaimed professor of linguistics at Columbia University who is diagnosed with familial, early-onset Alzheimer’s. Based on the bestselling novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, Still Alice offers a window into the tragic reality of what it’s like to knowingly face a disease that, as of yet, has no cure. With her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) working as a medical researcher, the characters are able to shed some light on the scientific details of early-onset Alzheimer’s when speaking with Alice’s neurologist; but it’s done in a way so as not to overwhelm the audience with technical language.