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Alzheimer’s drug fail in clinical trials

Clinical trials for solanezumab, a drug that it was hoped would slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, have failed at the final phase three stage. Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company behind the latest trials, announced recently that results showed there are no benefits to a patient’s memory from taking the drug.


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Hopes of a breakthrough

It had been hoped that solanezumab would make a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. The injectable antibody had the aim of slowing down progression rates and was designed to attach itself to amyloid plaques within an Alzheimer’s patient’s brain and remove abnormal proteins.

The scientists working on the development of this drug had believed that if these sticky plaques were destroyed in the initial stages of the condition, it could help to reduce cognitive decline as the disease progressed.

It is currently estimated that 46.8 million people globally have dementia and this figure is set to double over 20 years, with 131.5 million people expected to be suffering from it by 2050. Within England and Wales, the condition recently surpassed heart disease as the main cause of deaths.

No benefits

The trials, which involved a range of scientists and clinical trial assistants such as those sourced through, were carried out on 2,000 patients who had mild dementia; however, those taking the new drug did not see any significant benefits to their memory compared with those who took the placebo.

The drug had also been involved in a failed series of clinical trials in 2012, when it was used on patients with advanced symptoms; however, Eli Lilly had hoped to see more effective results with milder forms of the condition.

Alzheimer’s disease is proving a complex condition for pharmaceutical companies and, as yet, no treatments have been successful in slowing down the development of the condition, with few drugs making it through to phase three trials. In the decade to 2012, 99.6 per cent of the studies conducted around Alzheimer’s were eventually discontinued or halted.

There are differences in what experts see as the main problem with treating the condition and there are those who argue that we should not be focussing on amyloid plaques, as these are purely a visible symptom and not what needs to be targeted to reduce the symptoms.

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