Eli Lilly’s latest Alzheimer’s drug fails clinical trials

Eli Lilly’s drug solanezumab, designed to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, failed to show significant benefits in a large multi-national trial. The trial, which began in 2013, involved over 2,100 Alzheimer’s patients with mild dementia.

The pharmaceutical company announced that in the Phase 3 clinical trial of solanezumab, patients taking the drug did not show a significant slowdown in cognitive decline compared to those who took a placebo.

Solanezumab was designed to reduce the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. Some researchers have postulated that amyloid plaques may cause or contribute to the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The failure of this trial brings that theory into question.

Some scientists say there is still no convincing evidence of a clear relationship between amyloid plaques and dementia. Amyloid deposits begin to form up to twenty years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but may not cause it. Some people who have the plaques do not show cognitive decline.


While disappointing, the failure of this trial will not end efforts to find a cure. The results of this test will stimulate the scientific community to look in other directions. Even failed trials can provide helpful information and point to new avenues for research.

The next drug to be tested will be aducanumab by Biogen, which also attacks plaques but in a different way.

Alzheimer’s disease is involved in 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Almost 47 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and many require special care whether at home or in an institution.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of Long Term Care Insurance claims.


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