Published: Sun, March 24, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Another promising Alzheimer’s drug trial ends in failure: ‘This one hurts’

Another promising Alzheimer’s drug trial ends in failure: ‘This one hurts’

The companies will also halt a phase II study - EVOLVE - and the long-term extension of PRIME phase Ib, which were evaluating aducanumab.

Markets in Japan were closed for a national holiday so the impact of the news on Eisai will be delayed.

Eisai, which is partnering with Biogen Inc (NASDAQ: BIIB) on Alzheimer's research, announced the initiation of a global Phase 3 clinical study Thursday, dubbed Clarity AD/Study 301, of BAN2401, which is being evaluated in patients with early Alzheimer's disease. Drugs that looked promising in early tests have come up short when tried in larger groups, frustrating pharmaceutical executives, doctors and patients. At the time, there were safety concerns over the future of the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, which Biogen and the Irish drugmaker Elan were trialing.

The development is a "transformative failure for Biogen's pipeline", said Brian Abrahams, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, who had the equivalent of a hold rating on the stock.

Investors believe the successful development of a treatment for Alzheimer's, which affects about 5.7 million Americans, will result in multi-billion dollar annual sales.

Both Eisai and Biogen said they would continue to work on other Alzheimer's treatments.

Biogen shares

Guggenheim analyst Yatin Suneja said that would be a mistake for Biogen, which should instead start looking at merger and acquisition opportunities in treatments that target the central nervous system. However, it was said that treating Alzheimer's disease is proving to be tenuous.

The setback comes as the two drugmakers face scepticism from investors over their experimental Alzheimer's drug, BAN2401, for which they reported promising but confusing 18-month results last July.

Aducanumab was a key candidate in Biogen's pipeline.

Many companies including Biogen, Eisai, Lilly and AbbVie, are pursuing alternative approaches, such as focusing on tau, another Alzheimer's protein that is more closely linked with the onset of symptoms.

Adubanumab is also a monoclonal antibody developed by eliminating beta-amyloid to inhibit the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The analysis concluded the trials were unlikely to slow cognitive and functional impairment in patients on aducanumab compared with those on a placebo.

Johnson and Johnson aimed to delay the cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients through the BACE inhibitor atabecestat but gave up clinical trials in May a year ago due to hepatotoxic side effects.

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