Susan Young Rojahn

A View from Susan Young Rojahn

Yet Another Alzheimer’s Treatment Fails in Large Trial

A mixed-antibody treatment does not protect patients from cognitive decline.

  • May 8, 2013

More bad news from drugmakers trying to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease: Yesterday, Baxter announced that its mixed-antibody therapy failed to reduce cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. As I reported back in July 2012, the company saw positive results in a small four-patient trial of the treatment. None of these patients showed any cognitive decline, leading some experts to hope that the disease can be stopped or slowed (see “Study Suggests Alzheimer’s Disease Can be Stabilized”). But when Baxter tested its potential treatment—a complex mixture of antibodies harvested from healthy donated blood—in nearly 100-times as many Alzheimer’s patients, the company did not find a rate of decline slower than patients given a placebo.

Baxter’s announcement comes less than a year after two other pharmaceutical companies revealed that their Alzheimer’s treatment candidates failed in large clinical trials (see “Another Bust for Alzheimer’s Drugs” and “A New Setback for Alzheimer’s Drugs”). Both of these company’s trials tested antibodies known to glom onto the plaque protein amyloid-beta (it’s not clear what protein, or proteins, Baxter’s mixed antibody treatment would target). What drug makers are getting wrong is not clear—it could be  timing (many experts believe treatments will need to start early in the course of the disease, perhaps even before cognitive decline begins, to be effective), or it could be that amyloid is not the right target (the cause of the disease and amyloid’s role are not set in stone). What is clear is that with each year, we are facing a larger problem: Currently, around 36 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to grow to 2 billion by 2050 (see “The Dementia Plague”).

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.