- In 2012, researchers at Eli Lilly were ready to give up on solanezumab, an experimental drug for Alzheimer's disease (AD), but after combing through reams and reams of clinical data, results from two studies changed their minds.
- Their in-depth analysis found that this drug, which is designed to prevent plaque tangles, slowed down progression in patients with early-stage mild-to-moderate disease.
- In 2010, Lilly faced the failure of another AD drug that it had developed—semagacestat, which actually made the disease worse.
To this point, every effort to develop a treatment for AD that actually prevents progression of the disease instead of just addressing the symptoms has been a failure. However, the quest to find more effective treatments continues unabated, as companies, such as Lilly and Biogen move forward with their experimental therapies.
One thing that is becoming clear is that the most effective therapies to emerge will be the ones that treat early stages of AD, including mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Towards that end, there is a great deal of registry data and other resources available to companies working on AD therapies.
Were it not for the painstakingly meticulous analysis of a group of managers and scientists at Lilly in 2012, the CEO John Lechleiter never would have seen the sliver of data showing efficacy in mild-to-moderate patients that made him to decide to move forward with development.
Admittedly, AD research is incredibly expensive given the high failure rate, however, given the fact that 5.3 million Americans currently have AD, and that 1 in 3 people dies with the disease, as well as the fact that if better treatments are not found, national AD-related healthcare costs will top $1 trillion in 2020, the effort is worth it.
Lilly will be presenting their data at the upcoming Alzheimer's Association International Conference. If the drug makes it through late-stage trials and becomes approved, solanezumab could be on the market for 2017.