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Posted: July 08, 2008

Potential New Alzheimer's Drug Fails Tests; Maker Pulls Plug

A potential new drug in the war against Alzheimer’s disease has been scrapped after it failed to meet its goals in late-stage testing.


Myriad Genetics Inc., of Salt Lake City, pulled the plug on the drug Flurizan last week, saying it will stop all further development of the hoped-for antidote after unfavorable results in an 18-month, late-stage trial.

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The biotechnology company said it took the step after observing that patients who took Flurizan did not show improved cognition and the ability to handle day-to-day activities than subjects who were taking a placebo as a part of the trial.


While Myriad did not release detailed results from the trial, spokesman Bill Hockett said: “It’s fair to say it was not a near miss.”


Myriad’s action comes on the heels of spending about $60 million to develop Flurizan. Shutting down the testing process and further development will cost the company about $8 million more, it said in announcing its decision.


Flurizan was viewed as a potential new weapon in the medical campaign to stop advancement of Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts an estimated 5 million Americans and many millions more worldwide. It was intended to slow the progress of Alzheimer's by reducing levels of a protein at the origin of brain lesions known as plaque, which accumulates in Alzheimer's patients.


Myriad’s approach with Flurizan differed from current treatments that aim to give Alzheimer's patients a temporary cognitive boost, but do not impede the growth of plaque.


Observers said Flurizan performed well in its prior round of testing, called a prior Phase II clinical trial, as patients tolerated the drug’s effects and patients with mild Alzheimer’s were observed to benefit. Phase II testing did not seem to benefit patients with moderate Alzheimer’s, so this latest round was constructed to focus on patients with a mild form of illness.


Meanwhile, another drug maker, Eli Lilly & Company, is in late-stage testing of a drug that works somewhat similarly to Flurizan, by inhibiting an enzyme called gamma secretase.


In addition, pharmaceutical companies Wyeth and Elan have begun late-stage clinical trials of a drug that tries to clear amyloid plaques from the brain in a different way. The drug had mixed results in a middle-stage study, but the results were encouraging enough that the companies have moved into the final-stage of testing.

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