Lilly, Roche Drugs Chosen for Alzheimer Prevention Trial

Alzheimer’s drugs from Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) and Roche Holding AG were selected for a long-term study that, if successful, may lead to the treatments being used as a deterrent for people with a family history of the disease.

The experimental medicines will be tested in 160 people with a mutation that guarantees they will develop Alzheimer’s at an early age, perhaps as young as 30, the Washington University at St. Louis said in a statement today. There is no known cure for the disease.

If the trial is successful, it may lead to those drugs being widely used for people who have a family history of the condition. Lilly’s solanezumab slowed the decline in some patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease and provided no benefit to more advanced patients, Indianapolis-based Lilly announced in August. On Oct. 8, an independent group of scientists confirmed the findings.

“Trying to prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms from ever occurring is a new strategy,” said John C. Morris, principal investigator of the observational portion of the project and a professor of neurology at the university, in today’s statement. That will be the goal of the research, he said. Randall Bateman, a professor of neurology, is the head of the treatment study.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, which is the most-common type of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Global dementia cases are expected to double within 20 years to as many as 65.7 million people, the Geneva-based World Health Organization said in April.

Leads to Death

The disease leads to progressive memory loss over the course of years, and eventually ends in death.

Lilly declined 3.1 percent to $50.23 at the close of New York trading.

Roche, based in Basel, Switzerland, and Lilly agreed to make their treatments available for the study at no cost, and will support the trial with grants, the university said. Another $4.2 million has been given to the investigation from the Alzheimer’s Association, an advocacy group based in Chicago.

The trial will be conducted by the university’s unit of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network, or DIAN, which is an international group of scientists who are studying rare genetic mutations that cause the disease. The information gathered in these patients may enable better treatment for all dementia patients.

Roche (ROG)’s gantenerumab binds to clumps of beta amyloid, a protein thought to cause the disease. The drug is thought to help remove the clumps from the brain, and is in a mid-to-late stage company trial that started in 2010. Solanezumab removes the beta amyloid before it forms plaques.

Another Lilly drug, called a beta secretase inhibitor, is in testing by the company and may be included in the university research as well, according to today’s statement. That drug is thought to work by reducing the amount of beta amyloid produced in the brain.

The trial, which may start early next year, will test the medicines in inherited early-onset Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers will see if the treatments can prevent the loss of brain function.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at elopatto@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net.

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