Pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly have decided to end the phase III trials of Lanabecestat, a drug meant to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease, after it was revealed it was unlikely to meet targets.
An independent data monitoring committee came to the conclusion that the drug, which is an oral beta secretase cleaving enzyme (BACE) inhibitor, should stop trials as it was unlikely to meet endpoints upon completion of the trial period.
Menelas Pangalos, executive vice-president of AstraZeneca's IMED biotech unit, said: “We are saddened by this outcome as our researchers are working tirelessly to find a solution for the many people who are impacted by this devastating disease.”
“We are committed to ensuring our findings can be used to inform further research in the Alzheimer's community, given the importance of finding a treatment for this disease.”
The committee's decision to stop trials was not based on safety concerns, unlike Johnson & Johnson in May which was testing a similar inhibitor to treat Alzheimer's.
The BACE inhibitors can prevent enzymes which work as components in a protein that creates brain plaques, thought to be causing the memory-loss disease.
Daniel Skovronsky, president of Lilly Research Labs, said: “The complexity of Alzheimer's disease poses one of the most difficult medical challenges of our time, and we are deeply disappointed for the millions suffering from this devastating disease.”
“We are grateful for the contributions of the study participants and their families and encourage them to consider other Alzheimer's disease clinical trials. Lilly remains dedicated to Alzheimer's disease research as we have been for the last three decades.”
Steve Arlington, president of the Pistoia Alliance, told City A.M. that clinical trials of Alzheimer's drugs were complicated due to several reasons. Firstly, they can be very expensive since patients must use the drug over longer periods to demonstrate improvement and efficacy of the drug in order to pass the trial.
Another reason is that it can be hard to find test subjects matching the target group of the drug as phase III trials often requires thousands of test subjects.
In the case of Lanabecestat, the testing required patients diagnosed with mild Alzheimer's to take the drug once daily for 156 weeks.
The company's share price was down almost one per cent at 11am this morning.