Eli Lilly raises white flag on dementia drug trial

Eli Lilly and Co’s new experimental dementia drug, solanezumab, has had disappointing results in its third trial, and the company has announced it will not seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to market it.  The drug had been considered a potential first treatment specifically for mild dementia and for those who have brain plaques but have not yet developed the disease.

The Indianapolis-based drug manufacturer had hoped the drug would serve as a binding agent for the beta amyloid protein, which scientists believe causes the sticky plaques that clog the brain’s neuropathways. A binder might help the body clear out the sticky masses more effectively, the researchers hypothesized.

But the trial failures may serve as a bellwether for others in the research community. After watching Eli Lilly’s trials closely, some say the trials highlight a big problem: No one is sure what functional measurements are the best ones to judge drug effectiveness, especially for early stages of dementia.

Another issue is the focus on the beta amyloid proteins themselves, which some say develop at a stage too late to treat effectively with drugs. “Once you see amyloid on a scan, it’s probably been there for decades,” Samuel Gandy, MD, PhD, an Alzheimer’s researcher at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital who is not affiliated with the Eli Lilly trials, said in a New York Times article. “I’m worried and have been worried that that’s just too late,” he said. “I think [a drug] has a better chance of working much earlier.”

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia