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Alzheimer's drug fails; firms decide to halt tests


ELI Lilly & Co and AstraZeneca plc ended two late-stage trials of an experimental drug for Alzheimer's disease after the treatment failed to show any signs of working, adding to a litany of disappointments for the memory-robbing illness.

An independent data monitoring committee found that the medicine, lanabecestat, was unlikely to meet the goals of the studies, one for early Alzheimer's and the other for mild dementia related to the disease, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday.

Like several others that failed, such as Merck & Co's verubecestat, the drug targeted a protein called amyloid, thought to be a cause of the disease. The class of medicines known as BACE inhibitors operate before the amyloid has formed into deposits, called plaques.

Many researchers now believe that administering drugs after amyloid has built up in the brain may come too late to affect Alzheimer's progress. "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," Daniel Skovronsky, president of Lilly Research Labs, said in the statement.

The decision to end the trials won't have a material financial impact on AstraZeneca, and its guidance for this year remains unchanged, the Cambridge, England-based company said in a separate statement. Lilly doesn't anticipate significant costs associated with the end of the studies.

By one count, more than 190 Alzheimer drugs have failed in trials. Spending on care for people alive in the US right now who will develop the affliction is projected to cost US$47 trillion over the course of their lives, according to a report in March from the Alzheimer's Association.

The US is projected to spend US$277 billion on Alzheimer's or other dementia care in 2018 alone, with an ageing cohort of baby boomers pushing that number to US$1.1 trillion by 2050. BLOOMBERG

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