Alzheimer’s Progression Slowed by Drug in Major Trial
On September 27th, Biogen and Eisai reported that their experimental drug, lecanemab, slowed progress of the brain-wasting disease by 27% compared with a placebo, in a trial of 1,800 patients suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s.
As a result, share prices of both Biogen and Eisai soared on the news, jumping 43% and 60%, respectively, overnight. Raising hopes while creating quite the stir across the entire field, shares of smaller Alzheimer’s drug developers had also jumped – Prothena (PRTA) by 85%, and Acumen Pharmaceuticals (ABOS) by 72%.
The drug targets a toxic protein plaque known as Amyloid-βeta that has long been considered crucial to halting the progression of the fatal brain disease.
So, Time To Celebrate?!
Well, not quite. For starters, anything supporting the so-called amyloid hypothesis warrants skepticism given its long history of controversy, repeated failures, and seemingly political backdrop.
To add, while lecanemab appears to slow the disease, the medicine doesn’t restore mental capacity or totally stop its loss. More so, even if lacenemab did succeed, the magnitude of the delay – or, the slowing of cognitive decline – was relatively small.
Nintil, one of longevity’s favorite thought-leaders, shared similar skepticism shortly after the news:
“Lecanemab will end up flopping, aducanumab [Biogen/Esai’s most recent Alzheimer’s drug flop] also had a similar successful first trial. When enough drugs are tested against the same target, false positives will appear. Fields as a whole do not adjust for this (as an individual paper might)”
While the top-line results for lecanemab are convincing, we’re still in the very early days of determining whether the effects are clinically meaningful.
Keep in mind: Research focused on amyloid, and the development and testing of experimental drugs targeting it, have sucked up billions of dollars in government, foundation, and pharma funding with (so far) nothing to show for it. While there’s still plenty of room for optimism, the lack of progress has been an increasingly frustrating narrative for longevity enthusiasts as the National Institute on Aging (NIA) continues to spend more than 60% of its annual budget on Alzheimer’s-related efforts.
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