On Wednesday, Eli Lilly & Co. released new data on the experimental Alzheimer’s drug – solanezumab – which raises hopes that it could be effective in treating the neurodegenerative disease.
Another set of data was released on Biogen’s experimental Alzheimer’s drug, aducanumab. The two reports are mirroring the frustrating search for treatments that could slow Alzheimer’s progression and the lengthy process of clinical trials.
Eli Lilly & Co.’s drug, as well as Biogen’s are targeting the amyloid plaques building up on the brain. Recently these have become the center of attention in what could be the potential spark of Alzheimer’s disease.
With five million U.S. citizens affected by the disease, the search for effective treatments is an ongoing struggle. As of yet, the majority of experimental drugs have failed in reducing the cognitive function loss characteristic to Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2012, Eli Lilly & Co. reported a resounding failure connected to solanezumab use on Alzheimer’s patients that were already in the mild to moderate stages. For mild stage Alzheimer’s patients, the drug had yielded some results, thus a new clinical trial was initiated, this time targeting exclusively this group. Until 2017, there will be no final results.
Yet, the data released on solanezumab on Wednesday is preliminary from the second clinical trial. After the first 18-month test was ended, the patients in the mild stage group, as well as those in the placebo receiving group were asked if they wished to continue treatment with the drug.
The test was randomized, meaning neither doctors nor patients knew which patient had been in which group initially. Thus, some would continue from the 18 months treatment with solanezumab, some would just start and some would end treatment and receive placebo.
The idea that the study was built on is that if solanezumab is efficient in slowing cognitive function loss, then the patients that had only received placebo drugs would not be able to catch up with those that received Eli Lilly & Co.’s drug throughout the entire 18 months study.
Indeed, there was a statistically significant difference between the two groups, which persisted for one more year in the new study, and reduced significantly during the second year. These are signs of success according to the researchers involved in the study, yet they should be treated with caution.
Some have already voiced their cautious opinion. Professor Dr. Lon Schneider of the University of Southern California stated:
“The statistical analysis reported today does not provide any information on efficacy or on the amyloid hypothesis”.
Financial analysts have also taken an interest in the matter. Vamil K. Divan of Credit Suisse, noted for the New York Times that:
“today’s results at least allow investors to maintain hope that this potentially transformative product may make it to the market”.
Biogen on the other hand, had more successful results in March with its aducanumab experimental Alzheimer’s drug. While highly successful in slowing down the loss of cognitive function, this came at a cost. In order to achieve the results, the dose of aducanumab was increased to the point where it lead to a dangerous side effect: local swelling in the brain.
Biogen stated that it had adjusted the dose to medium and 30 patients who were receiving it showed the same results in slowing the rate of cognitive function loss, while presenting fewer side effects. This didn’t last for long, as medium dose was shown to not reduce cognitive function loss in a significant manner during one year of further study, while side-effects were still often reported.
Following the reports on Wednesday, Eli Lilly & Co. shares saw an increase of 1 percent, while Biogen’s shares declined by 4 percent.
Photo Credits csmres.co.uk
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