Earlier this month, Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson said they would end development of an intravenous version of their potential Alzheimer’s treatment, bapineuzumab, after two late-stage studies showed it worked no better than a placebo in patients with mild-to-moderate cases.
Lilly officials cautioned Friday that their study did not show that solanezumab slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s. It showed signs of slowing cognitive decline, one of many ways the disease impacts a person’s mind. Even so, they were encouraged.
Solanezumab binds to beta-amyloid protein, which scientists believe is a key component to sticky plaque that basically gums up the brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is designed to bind to the protein and help the body remove it from the brain before it can form that plaque. Lilly said that while the individual trials missed their main goals, the combined results showed there may be some validity to this approach.
“We really think this idea of attacking amyloid plaques is a valid hypothesis, that’s important news,” said Dave Ricks, president of Lilly Bio-Medicines.
But Dr. Sam Gandy, head of Alzheimer’s disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said Lilly’s statement on the results “is very tentative.”
“I believe in the notion that an amyloid-lowering agent like solanezumab will eventually work in early disease or pre-symptomatically, but whether these data provide compelling evidence that solanezumab has `cleared the bar’ just cannot be concluded” until full results are presented, Gandy wrote in an email.
Baxter International Inc. also reported some encouraging results in July from its potential Alzheimer’s treatment, Gammagard. The company said a tiny study indicated Gammagard might help stabilize Alzheimer’s for up to three years. Four patients who got the highest dose of Gammagard for three years showed no decline on memory and cognition tests, but a dozen others on different doses or shorter treatment times didn’t fare as well.
That study was too small to prove the treatment works, but a more rigorous one involving 400 patients will end late this year, with results expected by early next year.
AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee contributed to this report.