Today’s Object Lesson? There Will Be No Quick Answers — For Alzheimer’s Disease Drug Candidates

I think Matt Herper, writing for Forbes, has a very well-thought out analysis of what the disappointing Baxter announcement of this morning — on its GammaGard® (immunoglobulin) for Alzheimer’s research program — might mean, for other companies working on an Alzheimer’s candidate. [Baxter’s product is already on-market, around the globe, for other disease states. Baxter says it is stopping work in Alzheimer’s, as of today, though.]

I am forever fascinated by how often — in human biology — it seems that any given cognitive function disease/impariment is driven not by one or two clear defining change(s), in brain chemistry, or its DNA replication process — but by perhaps thousands (or tens of thousands?) tiny, almost imperceptible ones. . . occuring seemingly almost at random. That, my friends, will likely make Alzheimer’s one very tough problem to solve.

Do go read all of Matt’s take — but I’d be a little concerned, if I were looking at Merck’s current very high-spend R&D program, almost exclusively aimed at a pill for the Alzheimer’s Beta Amyloid pathway. Here’s a bit from Matt:

. . . .Here’s what may make scientists working on Alzheimer’s disease nervous, though. Eli Lilly had noted a reason for hope when its Alzheimer’s antibody failed: it seemed to work in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease, and not in those who had the more severe moderate form of the disease. Lilly is continuing to develop its drug.

It would be comforting if the Baxter trial had found the same thing. That would mean that this approach was consistently working in the same group of patients Instead, Baxter says it is seeing efficacy in the moderate form of the disease. This is more in line with what you’d expect if targeting beta amyloid resulted in only slight benefits or none at all. There will probably be more information as Baxter scientists continue to look at the results. . . .

I do not mean to sound overly-alarmist — and it is not (yet) time to drop any of the other programs — but it is very clear that we know less about Alzheimer’s than we thought, before this morning.

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