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MSD shuts down Phase 3 trial in prodromal Alzheimer's

Published on 14/02/18 at 09:33am

Another blow has been dealt to the field of Alzheimer’s research as MSD announces yet another trial failure of a drug to treat the disease. The firm halted development of the drug Verubecestat after it could not present enough potential efficacy in prodromal forms of the condition to warrant further study.

The decision was made following a recommendation from the external Data Monitoring Committee, which advised that a positive benefit/risk was unlikely to be achieved by continuing the trial.

Verubecestat is part of a class of drugs known as beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) inhibitor, an experimental line of treatments which operate by stopping or clearing the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain which is thought to cause Alzheimer’s.  

The move is just the latest in a series of setbacks in the space. MSD itself made the decision to discontinue development of the same drug in later forms of the disease a year ago. Since then, Pfizer announced that it would be discontinuing its research efforts in the neuroscience field to focus on other business areas, while Axovant and most recently Boehringer Ingelheim announced that they would be halting development of Alzheimer’s candidates.

“We are disappointed with this outcome, especially given the lack of treatment options for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Roger M Perlmutter, President of Merck Research Laboratories. “We are grateful to the patients and caregivers who participated in this study, and despite this outcome, Merck remains committed to developing novel therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

MSD has not yet confirmed whether it would be terminating development of the drug entirely, or whether it would continue to explore its potential in other indications.

Matt Fellows

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