A whole generation of people are willing on drug research into Alzheimerâ€™s cures and the current front-runner is Eli Lillyâ€™s experimental medication, â€˜solanezumabâ€™. The latest test results are neutral, leaving everyone with suspended expectations and huge hopes that the terrible disease can be stopped in itâ€™s tracks if only sufferers can be identified early on.
Of course the drug will only be proven after large-scale clinical trials and is therefore both, years away and of no use to current Alzheimer patients. The director of the Centre for Cognitive Health in New York says of the latest solanezumab results, â€œDefinitely maybe. Itâ€™s neither a definite success, nor is it a definite failure. I think itâ€™s enough encouragement to focus on the earliest stages of Alzheimerâ€™s and see if something thatâ€™s really compelling can come from the next trial.â€
All â€˜big Pharmaâ€™ companies are hunting for an Alzheimerâ€™s cure and all but Eli Lilly have come up short on the protein blocking path. Solanezumab is the only drug that shows a glimmer of promise, while Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and Elan have called a halt to be their antibody drugs that were failing to block the protein called â€˜amyloid betaâ€™. This protein is known to be strongly associated with Alzheimerâ€™s.
The neutral outlook on the Eli Lilly medication comes about after results from 2 clinical trials were published in August. The first was a trial involving 1,040 sufferers while the second had 646 patients. The bottom line was that an 18 month course of treatment with solanezumab yielded no statistically significant slowdown in cognitive deterioration as measured by one of two Alzheimerâ€™s scales. The Alzheimerâ€™s Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog), or the Activities of Daily Living Inventory (ADLI). Both are measures of how well patients are functioning.
By taking the two studies as one large one there was a significant slowing down of the rate at which all the patients got worse. The Alzheimer sufferers taking solanezumab, as assessed by ADAS-cog worsened by just over 6 points, yet those on the placebo worsened by just under 8 points. But this is not evidence that the treatment improved the cognitive functioning of any of the Alzheimerâ€™s sufferers.
When the patients in the larger study were grouped together according to how far their Alzheimerâ€™s had progressed, those with earlier onset of cognitive malfunction were measured to have a 42% less deceleration in decline. This outcome was not repeated in the smaller study even when the sickest patients were excluded from the data. There was however a 20% cut in the speed of decline on alternative versions of ADAS-cog and a 19% reduction on the ADLI.
[box type=”note”]According to the Chief of Neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York,Â â€œOne would have hoped that if we had a treatment that arrested Alzheimerâ€™s pathology, that we would see more than a marginal difference in this many subjects over such a long period of time. It suggests that in this population we may be doing too little too late.â€[/box]