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Another failure in Alzheimer’s creates bleak outlook for treatment

Published on 12/06/18 at 08:40am

Finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease has been one of the aims of big pharma for last few decades, but research in the area has failed to provide the breakthrough that many were hoping for.

With no current treatment available to hinder the progress of Alzheimer’s, any potential success in the area could reap billions in sales. This is why all the big pharma companies have at least dipped their toes into research in the area but have all been met with drug candidate failures.

This was the case again for AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly, as they reported the failure of lanabecestat in Phase 3 trials.

The independent monitoring committee ruled that the beta secretase cleaving enzyme (BACE) inhibitor was not likely to meet its primary endpoints in its Amaranth study and, as a result, the companies brought trials into the drug to halt.

The outcome is another hole in the theory that beta-amyloid existence in the brain directly contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

One company that will be worried by this outcome is Biogen, which has its own BACE inhibitor in trials and only just posted results, earlier this month, showing that the drug did reduce amyloid in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. However, it did not show an ability to slow disease progression.

“The complexity of Alzheimer's disease poses one of the most difficult medical challenges of our time, and we are deeply disappointed for the millions suffering from this devastating disease,” said Daniel Skovronsky, President of Lilly Research Labs. “We are grateful for the contributions of the study participants and their families and encourage them to consider other Alzheimer's disease clinical trials. Lilly remains dedicated to Alzheimer's disease research as we have been for the last three decades. We won't give up on finding a solution for Alzheimer's patients.”

Skovronsky’s comments that Lilly would be not giving up on the space come in stark contrast to other players that experienced failures in the area – notably, early this year Pfizer dumped its entire neuroscience division, after a number of failures in Alzheimer’s.

Ben Hargreaves

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