Alzheimer's disease drug shelved after trial failure

Computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer patient (at left) compared with a normal brain (at right). Alzheimer's significantly decreases brain volume (at left) in those affected

Related Stories

Two US drug firms say they will stop development of an Alzheimer's drug because it failed in two late-stage clinical trials.

Bapineuzumab, made by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, was designed to halt build-up of plaque in the brain.

But it failed to improve cognitive or functional performance compared with a placebo in certain patients.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, as well as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

An estimated 36 million people worldwide are believed to have dementia, including Alzheimer's.

Late stage trials

Both firms announced on 23 July that the first clinical trial of the intravenous (IV) version of bapineuzumab had failed.

In that study, patients with a gene that is associated with a greater risk of Alzheimer's were tested.

But results with the group were largely the same as with those who did not have the gene, who were tested in the second study.

The second trial's end means that additional studies on the IV version will not take place; however, Johnson and Johnson said a study of subcutaneous use would continue.

Some had predicted that the IV studies of bapineuzumab would fail because they were treating those whose brains were already damaged.

"One of the strong thoughts in the field is that you really have to treat people before they become demented," William Thies, chief scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association told Reuters, adding that the announcement did not prevent the drug from being tested as a preventative.

And Mr Thies said that despite the trial's failure, data from the experiment could still be useful.

"These studies are terribly important for us to learn about Alzheimer's disease, and that part of the process is just starting as the data continues to be crunched in a variety of ways."

Johnson and Johnson had agreed in 2009 to invest up to $1.5bn (£961m) in bapineuzumab.

In a statement, Steven Romano, head of Pfizer's Medicines Development Group said they were "obviously very disappointed" with the trial's outcome.

"We are also saddened by the lost opportunity to provide a meaningful advance for patients afflicted with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers," he said.

A similar drug being developed by Eli Lilly, solanezumab, is also considered a long-shot to succeed, but results of the trials will not be available until later this year.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More US & Canada stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

Programmes

  • A map of social media interactionsClick Watch

    Twitter's map of the Middle East conflict – how the two sides react to each other on social media

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.