HAYDEN BIRD/GETTY IMAGES
The race to find a drug that will cure or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease has hit another hurdle.
On Thursday, Biogen and its Japanese partner Eisai — the pharmaceutical makers of the anti-amyloid drug aducanumab — abruptly ended two phase 3 clinical trials on patients with mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease or mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia. The decision was made after an independent data-monitoring committee reported that the experimental drug showed no sign of effectiveness.
Aducanumab had shown early promise in its target of eliminating beta-amyloid, the brain-destroying plaque that builds up around neurons and kills crucial connections.
The news is yet another setback for the 5.8 million Americans who are currently living with the brain disease. Currently, there are no drugs on the market that combat Alzheimer’s; nearly all clinical trials of Alzheimer’s drugs have failed.
For expert tips to help feel your best, get AARP’s monthly Health newsletter.
Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, says that while the association is “very disappointed in the report,” even a failed clinical trial has value. “We learn something from every trial that goes forward, that helps us strengthen and build upon those learnings and do the next trial or next study even better.”
And drug trials are just one pathway for Alzheimer’s research, she notes. “There are also other studies going on looking at lifestyle intervention and modification of behavior, and what that might do to reduce the risk or stop the progression of the brain changes that we associate with disease.”
Snyder adds that the failure of the aducanumab trials “underscores that we must continue to advance all potential therapies, all potential opportunities for treatment. When it comes to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, we should leave no stone unturned.”