Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease. It leaves a tremendous burden not only on the one afflicted by it but also on the friends and family of the person with the disease. Especially crippling can be the early-onset variant of Alzheimer’s, affecting those under the age of 65. Early-onset Alzheimer’s often acts as a death sentence for one’s professional life and goals. It also demands that someone look after the afflicted.
Currently, the drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s can neither cure the disease nor halt its progression, but they can mitigate the memory loss and confusion it causes. Therefore, consistently taking these medications is imperative for Alzheimer’s patients. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned memory loss, missing a dose can have a cascading effect of causing the patient to miss future doses as well. For elderly patients in assisted living facilities, remembering to take medications is not an issue because there are nurses and orderlies responsible for distributing and delivering medications. However, early-onset patients who are hoping to work a few more years and possibly support a family, assisted living is quite an undesirable option, and family members have their own lives and obligations, so they may not be able to fulfill the role of taking complete responsibility for the health of the afflicted.
With that, the potential of drug delivery implants could largely mitigate this problem. Currently, drug elution implants are used for contraception, opioid addiction treatment, long acting breast cancer treatment, and even hormone therapy - but they could possibly used to deliver medications for Alzheimer’s as well. For elderly patients, this application is impractical because there are already healthcare professionals who are responsible for making sure these patients take their medications. Additionally, implant insertion and removal can be quite painful and disruptive to elderly patients. However, for younger patients who have both the need and vitality for an implant, this solution becomes much more viable as it replaces a daily need to remember to take medication with a need to schedule less frequent appointments for implant insertion and removal.
While drug implants solve one problem in this case, they create another: removal of the implant can cause bruising, scarring, and other complications. Insertion is necessary by definition for implants, but if the removal process could be eliminated, the risk of complications would drop significantly, making implantable drug delivery a more attractive option. A drug delivery implant that can resorb into the body as the drug is delivered would increase the viability of implantable drug delivery as a treatment for early-onset Alzheimer’s. Hera Health Solutions, a pharmaceutical device startup that is developing a biodegradable implant for the use of contraception could use their technology to deliver medication for Alzheimers. As new drugs are developed for treating Alzheimer’s, examining the delivery mechanism will also be an important factor in optimizing treatments.