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Hopes rise for new Alzheimer’s drug after secondary analysis

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4048 (Published 24 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4048
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Data from a failed trial of a drug for Alzheimer’s disease have generated a slim hope that it was not such a failure after all.

When the drug manufacturer Eli Lilly reported the results of its phase III trial of solanezumab in 2012, it looked like the end. The monoclonal antibody drug had failed to improve either cognitive or functional endpoints in patients with mild to moderate disease. Along with several other drugs that target amyloid β—the protein that forms clumps in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients—solanezumab had been a disappointment.

This week, however, the company announced new results from a secondary analysis of the trial data that suggested a small, sustained effect in patients with mild disease. The original trial lasted 18 months and compared treatment against placebo, followed by a two year period in which patients on a placebo were transferred to the drug. This allowed a comparison between the early …

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