Baxter International Inc. (BAX)’s Gammagard failed to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease in a late-stage study, adding to a string of failures to develop a treatment for the most common form of dementia.
Baxter will halt all studies of the therapy for mild to moderate forms of the disease and reconsider its Alzheimer’s program, the Deerfield, Illinois-based company said in a statement today. Gammagard, or immunoglobulin, is currently used to replace antibodies in people with immune system disorders.
Gammagard is the third experimental Alzheimer’s drug to fail in less than a year, leaving Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) as the only company left with a medicine for the disease in the last phase of testing needed for marketing clearance. Lilly’s drug, called solanezumab, is being studied in patients with mild Alzheimer’s after it failed to show a benefit in more advanced stages.
“It is disappointing for the millions of families suffering right now,” said Reisa Sperling, director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “In terms of timing, this means we are several years away from getting anything on the market.”
Baxter fell 2.5 percent to $68.58 at 4 p.m. in New York trading. Grifols SA (GRF), a Barcelona-based company that’s also studying immunoglobulin in Alzheimer’s, fell 5.5 percent to 28.15 euros in Madrid trading, the biggest decline in nine months.
Immunoglobulin failed to reduce the cognitive decline or preserve functional abilities in Alzheimer’s patients after 18 months of treatment, the company said. The full results will be presented in July at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston.
Researchers began to hope the Baxter treatment could provide a benefit in July after it halted progression of the disease for as long as three years in a study of 16 patients. In that study, four patients given the ideal dose at the start of the trial experienced lasting improvement. Five patients initially given a placebo and seven others on varying amounts of Gammagard, experienced no benefit.
More than 5 million Americans suffer from the disease, and the number is expected to increase to 16 million by 2050, according to the National Institutes of Health. Existing drugs temporarily ease symptoms of the condition, while patients continue the inexorable slide into dementia.
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