Late-stage trials of an experimental drug called intepirdine showed disappointing results in improving memory and thinking skills in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The results underscore the challenges of finding effective treatments for the disease, which affects more than five millions Americans and many more worldwide.
Earlier tests of the drug had suggested that it might benefit patients. But in the current trial, the largest to date, the drug showed no benefits over a placebo in improving memory or thinking skills. Nor were patients taking the drug better able to carry out day-to-day activities like getting dressed and preparing meals.
The company that was testing the drug, Axovant Sciences of Switzerland, said that it will stop exploring the medication’s use as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. It is continuing studies of the drug for another form of dementia.
Experts continue to be hopeful that new drugs may offer ways to actually curb or halt the downward progression of Alzheimer’s. Currently approved drugs for Alzheimer’s may help ease symptoms for a time but do little to stop the downward progression of disease.
But like many drugs before it, intepirdine failed in late-stage testing.
Intepirdine was being tested in 1,315 men and women, aged 50 to 85, with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Patients were already taking the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept and continued to take that drug during the study period.
For 24 weeks, half the study volunteers got intepirdine. Others got a look-alike placebo pill. But those on intepirdine did not do better than those taking the dummy pill.
Drugs that target Alzheimer’s in new ways are urgently needed, and dozens of experimental drugs are in the pipeline. But Alzheimer’s is proving to be a particularly difficult target for developing new treatments.
One of the main reasons so many drugs may fail is that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s typically comes at a late stage, when symptoms have become prominent, possibly a decade or two after the brain starts to degenerate. When drugs are tested in these conditions, it is obviously way more challenging than if patients were treated much earlier, before too many brain functions are severely impacted. Identifying ways to diagnose and then treat patients as early as possible is one of the priorities for research these days.
Scientists are still unraveling why Alzheimer’s develops in some people and what makes the disease gets worse. Basic research into the underlying causes are critical for better understanding the disease and developing new treatments.
The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation continues to do critical research into Alzheimer’s disease in the hopes of one day finding a cure.
By www.ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.
Source: Axovant Sciences, Basel, Switzerland