More reports on: Pharmaceuticals

Merck calls off late-stage trial of Alzheimer's drug verubecestat

15 February 2017

Drug company, Merck said yesterday that it was calling off the late-stage trial of Alzheimer's drug verubecestat, after an independent study found that it had "virtually no chance" of working.

The development comes only months after Eli Lilly did the same with its Alzheimer's drug solanezumab, after no signs of improvement were seen in patients on the drug, compared to those taking a placebo.

"While we are disappointed that a benefit was not observed in this study, our work continues [to study the impact of] verubecestat in people with less advanced disease," said Dr Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories.

According to experts, the drug's failure on people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's was a substantial setback.

"There were high hopes that [the trial] might succeed," professor John Breitner, Canada research chair in prevention of dementia and professor of geriatric psychiatry and preventive medicine at McGill University told CNN.

An independent panel of experts had noted that there was ''virtually no chance of finding a positive clinical effect,'' according to an independent panel of experts.

However, the drugmaker said in a statement that a separate trial of verubecestat in patients who were showing only symptomatic hints of the degenerative disease would continue.

''It's very disappointing, once again,'' said David Knopman, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

While genetics and ageing had been well-established as risk factors for Alzheimer's, "there is hope that adopting healthy brain life habits might delay or prevent the appearance of Alzheimer's disease," the Alzheimer's Association says.

Forty four million people suffer from the degenerative disease globally. The condition robs people of their memories and ability to care for themselves.

There had not been a new drug for alleviating symptoms in over a decade, and there were no medicines proven to slow the condition.

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