Taking stock of new Alzheimer's drug coverage: A "landmark breakthrough" that offers no "clinically apparent benefit" - HealthNewsReview.org
Taking stock of new Alzheimer’s drug coverage: A “landmark breakthrough” that offers no “clinically apparent benefit”
The big story dominating this week’s health news has been the presentation of new results on studies of Alzheimer’s drugs at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington.
Eli Lilly was there to show off data on solanezumab, a drug that previously failed to demonstrate benefits in two big studies but is now being retested in a different patient group.
Biogen reported findings from a small study about a new dosage of its drug aducanumab. It’s basically an addendum to results that were already reported in March.
By all informed accounts, these are interim studies that merely hint at the possibility that the drugs might be causing beneficial effects in the brain. They show that the drugs cleared plaque out of the brains of patients and may have had very small effects on some measures of cognitive functioning but not others. There could be something happening here, but an Eli Lilly consultant acknowledged that the effects they observed from solanezumab wouldn’t even be noticeable to patients or their families.
“The cognitive measures do not have a direct relationship to clinically apparent benefit,” said Dr. Paul Aisen, who is also director of the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California, speaking to NBC News.
So why bother to present provisional results that don’t even demonstrate that the drugs had any noticeable effect? As Matthew Herper points out at Forbes, the show at this week’s conference may have been more about company stock prices than about informing patients and the public.
It’s only investors, who want to value these companies based on the odds of success of the drugs, and scientists and other drug companies, who are deciding how to develop other experimental medicines, who are really going to take any action based on these results. And for them, the new results probably change little.
But investors and scientists aren’t the only ones who’ll be reading the breathless media accounts that these presentations produced, such as this one from the UK Telegraph.
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