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The fact that independent monitors have not stopped the new studies has made Dr. Reisa Sperling optimistic the drug will prove to be safe. Director of the Alzheimer’s center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, she has consulted for Janssen and Pfizer and enrolled patients in the studies.

Relkin, who is leading the Gammagard study, said that if all three of these drugs fail, “we’re in trouble.” There hasn’t been a new drug even to help symptoms in nine years, he said.

Petersen of the Mayo Clinic agrees.

“If they’re dead-flat negative, the impact on the field and the implication for Big Pharma could be huge,” he said. Companies “may bail” from the field entirely. “They may just say, `This nut is too tough to crack.’”

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Online:

Alzheimer’s info: http://www.alzheimers.gov

Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org

Alzheimer's Association International Conference: http://www.alz.org/aaic/overview.asp

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Marilynn Marchione can be followed at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP