Friday, 22 June 2018
Another one bites the dust
This week’s medical journal, The Lancet, carries an editorial about the latest spate of anti-Alzheimer’s trials that have been stopped early. Two of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly, have announced that they have stopped phase 3 trials of a new kind of treatment called BACE inhibitors (β-amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme inhibitors). These studies were designed on the back of good evicence that they might work, and indeed the compounds have made it all the way to phase 3 trials – a large number of individuals with Alzheimer’s being given either the compound or placebo. These trials are hugely costly to run, and so typically, the drug companies and financial investors, tend to only back what they think will be a winning horse.
This year brings more disappointment for the Alzheimer’s community, Janssen stopped a BACE inhibitor trial in May, and Merck pulled their BACE inhibitor trial in February.
The editorial comments that although these studies have been stopped frequently because an early look at the data suggest no meaningful effect, so no point in continuing the study, it is not necessarily the end of the road for these treatments, but that the prodromal phase of Alzheimer’s may be where the treatments will work.
I fear that the Parkinson’s world should ready ourselves for a similar journey. The road may be long, and fraught with disappointments, but the goal remains to develop a safe and effective treatment to stop or slow down Parkinson’s. Each failure does not sound the death knell, and each time we, as a global Parkinson’s community, must learn as much as we can from the failures to increase our chances of success. A vital lesson to learn from the Alzheimer’s world, is that established disease is likely to be a case of “too little, too late”.
Alzheimer's disease research: the future of BACE inhibitors