The first days of 2018 have been a bleak reminder of how tough it is to develop drugs for some of the world’s most frightening diseases, which rob people of their memories, abilities and personalities.In the span of one week, pharma giant Pfizer announced it was ending its internal efforts to develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Axovant Sciences announced that its experimental drug, which late last year failed an Alzheimer’s trial, had also failed to treat a different form of dementia. A day later, a leading medical journal published an account of yet another experimental drug that failed to prevent cognitive decline in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.These setbacks pile on to an already depressing situation: more than 400 failed clinical trials since the last Alzheimer’s drug – which only treats the symptoms of the disease, temporarily – was approved more than a decade ago.

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