New Steps Toward Stopping Alzheimer’s
Results Still to Come for a Highly Watched Drug
June 11, 2007 - Scientists reported some progress in their search for new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease Monday, even while researchers studying a closely watched new drug said they must rework their data to determine if it is effective.
Researchers attending a major scientific meeting in Washington have not achieved any “magic bullets” against the brain-wasting effects of Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, they say they’re optimistic that a series of new treatments could prove to slow or reverse the disease.
Scientists studying one promising new drug, called Alzhemed, had hoped to announce major new findings this week. But the study leader announced that statistical issues would force scientist to reanalyze their results before determining if the drug works.
Reworking of data is often a red flag for regulators approving new drugs because it can be a sign the product did not work as hoped under a company’s original study design. But researcher Paul Aisen, MD, insisted at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association that the move was part of the overall study plan.
“This process does not indicate that the drug didn’t work,” said Aisen, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University, who is leading the Alzhemed study for Neurochem Inc.
The drug works in theory by blocking the formation of amyloid, an inflammation-causing protein known to be a key cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Aisen suggested that some early data were “in favor of treatment” instead of placebo pills, but he said he would not speculate further on whether the drug appears effective.
“At this point, conclusions can’t be drawn,” he said.
If the drug proves worthy, it could be a major step in Alzheimer’s treatment. Existing drugs on the market mostly slow the disease’s unrelenting progression or ease some symptoms. Observers eagerly await Alzhemed’s results because it could actually be a breakthrough in treating the underlying disease itself.
But for now, that breakthrough remains unproven.
Sam Gandy, MD, who leads the Alzheimer’s Association scientific advisory council, called the delay “science as usual.”
“This is exactly what we should expect: incremental progress,” said Sam Gandy, “We don’t expect there to be one single compound” that will prove to be a cure for the disease.