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Another Alzheimer’s drug bites the dust in P3

Published on 12/01/18 at 08:41am

It’s been a terrible week for Alzheimer’s disease research, after Pfizer shuttered its neuroscience unit and Axovant revealed that its lead candidate was effectively worthless.

There was one bright spot but that has been immediately dampened by one of the biggest prospects for treatment of the condition to reveal that it wasn’t effective in Phase 3 trials.

Lundbeck had big hopes for the drug after positive Phase 2 results, and backed up its faith in the candidate with three Phase 3 trials. The trial included some 2,525 patients that had mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

However, across all three trials, no significant effect was measured on the primary outcome, which was based on slowing cognitive decline. To make matters worse, the drug also had no significant impact on secondary outcomes.

The participants were given three differing doses of drug (10mg, 30mg or 60mg) each day but none of these were able to differentiate themselves in the results against placebo.

Dr David Bennett, from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, wrote an editorial piece linked to the release of the results: “The lack of progress in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer disease is frustrating for patients, families, physicians, researchers, industry, funders, and policy makers. Understanding the causes for these failures is essential for informing future trials.

He added, “However, there is reason for hope. Despite these failures and despite the complexity of the disease, the field is generating new knowledge at an unprecedented pace. It is just a matter of time before that knowledge is translated into effective strategies for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer disease dementia”.

This is the argument that those trying to make breakthroughs in the area are putting forward for continued investment into treatments, with even failures contributing to the understanding the area.

In this particular treatment, the drug acted to increase the supply of serotonin, whilst acting on four neural transmitters affected by Alzheimer’s: glutamate, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and dopamine.

Despite the glut of negative news in the disease, Alzheimer’s Society posted a message after Pfizer’s exit from the space signalling the reasons to remain positive: “There are still many reasons for people and families affected by dementia to maintain hope. The G7 nations have committed to finding a disease modifying treatment by 2025 and this is still within reach as long as research investment is increased and sustained across the board. Alzheimer’s Society has committed £50m to fund new research at the UK Dementia Research Institute alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Medical Research Council.”

Ben Hargreaves

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