Failed Alzheimer’s drug may help people at risk for the disease
Just a month after Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Inc. put the brakes on the development of a new drug that failed to improve mental decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, the drug companies announced that the medication does reduce the physical damage in the brain caused by plaque and may be helpful in people who are predisposed to the disease.
The drug is an intravenous formulation of bapineuzumab, a monoclonal antibody intended to break up beta amyloid protein plaques that form in the brain and can lead to conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
News that bapineuzumab and a similar drug from Eli Lilly & Co., solanezumab, did not improve memory or thinking in Alzheimer’s patients was disappointing news, especially when few drugs help ease symptoms in patients diagnosed with the disease. When Johnson & Johnson announced it was halting trials on Alzheimer’s patients, the company added that there was still hope it could help pre-clinical Alzheimer’s patients.
“The disease begins 10 to 20 years before there are any symptoms, and now we are better at detecting some of those changes,” said Steve Salloway, director of Neurology and the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital and professor of neurology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “Drugs like this that lower amyloid will probably have their greatest impact earlier on. We have to test that.”
Trials of bapineuzumab on high-risk patients are planned but it could be another three to five years before they are complete.
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