Health and Healthcare

The List of Failed Alzheimer's Drug Treatments Keeps Growing


If there is one cure or one treatment that could be the proverbial Holy Grail for a pharmaceutical or biotech company, it would be in a successful treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. This disease has ravaged an aging American population. More than 5 million Americans were already living with Alzheimer’s in 2014, and that number is expected to triple as the population continues to age.

Treating Alzheimer’s is a mega-blockbuster drug class waiting to happen. It could literally represent billions of dollars in annual sales, and maybe tens of billions. Having millions of patients who fall into various stages of the Alzheimer’s spectrum comes with endless direct financial costs and indirect costs in treating these patients. This target has been more than enticing enough to attract pharmaceutical and biotech outfits to spend of billions of dollars in the chase to treat Alzheimer’s.

Unfortunately, not all medical needs turn into great success stories. It turns out that trying to find a cure Alzheimer’s, or even finding a mildly successful treatment for it, has been the Boulevard of Broken Dreams for those suffering from the disease. It has also led to billions of dollars of R&D money down the drain for those companies that have sought after cures or treatments.

The chase to treat or beat Alzheimer’s is nothing short of tricky and elusive. There are many overlaps, including dementia and brain injuries. Many causes or issues in a life may play a role, from food, activities, environmental, health choices to heredity. Where things get more complicated is that there is not a universal trigger for the causes that the medical community agrees on. There is even a wide array theories on how Alzheimer’s and related diseases should be treated or cured.

24/7 Wall St. has gone through its own database and has identified many other uncovered cases where companies have failed to deliver in the war against Alzheimer’s and related conditions. This is not just an effort to call out the losers, because in the end we all lose if there is no cure or treatment that can radically change the outcome of treating or curing Alzheimer’s.

There are at least some approved drugs aimed at various stages of Alzheimer’s, but they have yet to generate significant improvements, nor the endless amounts of revenue that may be there one day. Allergan PLC (NYSE: AGN) and Adamas Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ADMS) have Namzaric and Namenda. Many other studies are underway, while other studies have been followed by huge disappointments even from the largest companies. These are just some of the disappointments that have been seen in recent months and years.

Axovant Sciences Ltd. (NASDAQ: AXON) was the latest failure after the firm provided an update from a Phase 3 Alzheimer’s trial of its investigational drug intepirdine in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease who were receiving background donepezil therapy. Its shares had almost doubled so far in 2017 on big hopes here, but the failed trial took out more than 70% of its value in one swoop.

Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) took a light beating after announcing in February of 2017 that it would be halting its mid-to-late-stage clinical trial for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY) saw its shares get clobbered in November 2016 (to new 52-week lows at the time) after the company announced results from its Phase 3 solanezumab trial in people with mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Biogen Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) saw its shares fall in mid-2015 after dropping some of the bullish hopes for its Alzheimer’s drug candidate, after its aducanumab fell short of analyst and investor expectations.

Prana Biotechnology Ltd. (NASDAQ: PRAN), an Australia-based biotech firm, announced back in 2014 that top-line results for a Phase 2 trial of its Alzheimer drug failed to meet its primary endpoint. Its shares lost almost 70% of their value as well on the instant reaction, and that share price is still lower now than it was back then after the drop. Now its market cap is just under $25 million.

Even the mighty Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) has failed in treatment hopes for Alzheimer’s disease. It and partner Elan at the time failed a late-stage trial in patients with mild-to-moderate cases of the disease back in 2012, and then Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) ended the trials for bapineuzumab as it did not improve the condition of Alzheimer’s patients compared to a placebo. Johnson & Johnson said at that time that it would take a $300 million to $400 million charge in its third quarter.

The Alzheimer’s Association does list some approved treatments for Alzheimer’s, but it also shows just how undermet this area in medicine happens to be as of today. It noted about future treatment breakthroughs:

Researchers are looking for new ways to treat Alzheimer’s. Current drugs help mask the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but do not treat the underlying disease or delay its progression. A breakthrough Alzheimer’s drug would treat the underlying disease and stop or delay the cell damage that eventually leads to the worsening of symptoms. There are several promising drugs in development and testing, but we need more volunteers to complete clinical trials of those drugs and increased federal funding of research to ensure that fresh ideas continue to fill the pipeline.

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