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Biogen shares hit by key Alzheimer’s drug concerns

Published on 15/02/18 at 11:32am

Biogen made investors very nervous after it announced that it was choosing to add an additional 510 patients to its key trial into its Alzheimer’s medicine.

The decision to flood more patients into the trial was made after it apparently saw “increased variability” on the data from those receiving aducanumab.

It’s a bad time for potential treatments into Alzheimer’s, with a raft of companies recently throwing in the towel on key drugs since the start of the year and Pfizer surprising the entire industry by dumping its neuroscience division.

Only the day prior, MSD, known as Merck in North America, had revealed that it was abandoning its own lead candidate in the disease area, after revealing it did not receive a strong enough indication from the data to continue development.

Biogen felt the pinch after its decision, with shares initially falling by 91% before settling at a loss of over $20 per share (6.6%) on the news.

Interim results are no longer expected due to the decision to involve more patients, which means that investors are likely to be left waiting until 2020 to discover whether Biogen’s gamble has paid off.

The major concern is that the decision to involve more patients is not a good omen for the drug, though Biogen indicated that it had always held plans to potentially expand the trial.

“We did see more variability on the primary endpoint than assumed when we did the original sample size estimations,” Biogen Chief Medical Officer Al Sandrock said at an investor event where the setback was noted.

There are currently no treatments on the market to counter the disease and any drug that is able to make the breakthrough would certainly go on to be incredibly lucrative.

However, after so many failures, it is likely that research into Alzheimer’s will be scaled back by many companies deeming the area to be far too risky to invest in.

Ben Hargreaves

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