Roche, Lilly drugs chosen for Alzheimer's trial


Experimental drugs from Roche Holding AG and Eli Lilly & Co have been  selected for a global Alzheimer’s disease prevention trial, and a second Lilly  drug is being considered for inclusion in the study, Washington University said  on Wednesday.

The trial, expected to begin in early 2013, will enroll 160 patients with  inherited gene mutations that typically lead to Alzheimer’s disease at a young  age, the St. Louis university said on Wednesday.

The drugs chosen for the study are Roche’s gantenerumab and Lilly’s  solanezumab. Under consideration is an experimental Lilly drug called a  beta-secretase inhibitor.

Researchers in August said solanezumab failed to prevent decline in cognitive  and physical function among patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s in two  large late-stage studies.

But hopes for the drug were revived a bit on Monday when Lilly said an  analysis of pooled data from the two studies showed solanezumab led to a 34  percent reduction in memory decline for patients with mild symptoms over a  period of 18 months. It said the change was statistically significant.

Solanezumab, a monoclonal antibody, attacks beta amyloid, a protein that  forms plaques in the brain that many scientists believe are a main cause of the  progressive memory-robbing disease.

Some industry analysts expect Lilly to seek marketing approval of solanezumab  based on the mixed trial data, but others say the Indianapolis drugmaker would  have to complete a large costly new trial among patients with mild symptoms to  win approval.

Shares of Lilly, up more than 7 percent since the pooled data were unveiled  on Monday, were down 1.6 percent in morning trading. Shares of Roche were 1  percent lower amid a moderate decline in the ARCA Pharmaceutical Index of large  U.S. and European drugmakers.

Washington University, in a press release, said the Lilly beta-secretase  inhibitor, now being tested by the company in mid-stage studies, is designed to  reduce the amount of beta amyloid proteins produced by the body, thereby slowing  the accumulation of brain plaques.

(Reporting By Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John  Wallace)

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