Blow for sufferers as experimental Alzheimer's drug is scrapped

Studies of one of the most anticipated experimental drugs for Alzheimer's disease have been scrapped after it failed to help patients with the condition in a high-profile clinical trial.

Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson said they would discontinue all other studies of the drug bapineuzumab including two more trials and follow-up extension studies, in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's.

The result marked the second such late-stage failure announced in recent weeks and was especially disappointing as bapineuzumab had been given a better chance of success in the patients studied in the second trial. If successful, it would have been the first drug to fight the progression of the debilitating brain disease.

Attention will now turn to solanezumab, a similar drug being developed by Eli Lilly & Co that is also considered a long-shot to succeed, but will still carry fading hopes at least until test results are released later this year. Shares in all three drugs firms fell following news of the latest disappointment.

Any successful Alzheimer's treatment is likely to reap many billions of pounds in sales, and industry analysts said many investors were holding shares in the companies in case the drugs were to succeed. "We are obviously very disappointed in the outcomes of this trial. We are also saddened by the lost opportunity to provide a meaningful advance for patients afflicted with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease," said Steven Romano, head of Pfizer's medicines development group.