Drug companies are notoriously secretive. The clock starts running on a patent when it is filed, so the longer something can be kept under wraps before that happens, the better for the bottom line. You know something is up, then, when a group of these firms announce they are banding together to share the results of abandoned drug trials. And on June 11th, several big companies did just that. They publicised the profiles of 4,000 patients from 11 trials so that they could learn from each other's failures. An act of selflessness, perhaps, but also one of desperation.
Alzheimer's disease is one of those things that policymakers would rather hide from. It is, perhaps, the classic illness of old age. Physical frailty is expected, and can be coped with. Mental frailty is much scarier for the sufferer and more demanding for those who have to look after him. It is expensive, too. Alzheimer's is estimated to cost America alone some $170 billion a year. And it is getting commoner as average lifespans increase. The number of people suffering from the disease is expected to triple by 2050. Effective treatments would thus be embraced with enthusiasm by sufferers and society alike.