What's next: We're about to find out if there will be a way anytime soon to slow the course of Alzheimer's disease. Results are due in about a month from key studies of two drugs that aim to clear the sticky plaque gumming up patients' brains. A pivotal study of a third drug will end later this year, and results from a small, early test of it will be reported next week in Vancouver, British Columbia.
What's at stake: Experts say that if these fail, drug companies may pull out of the field in frustration. The three treatments being tested are antibodies -- proteins made by the immune system that promote clearance of amyloid, which forms the plaque. They are:
Bapineuzumab is lab-made, single antibodies against amyloid by Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy unit. It is one of the largest bets ever placed in the field of Alzheimer's disease, with more 4,000 patients participating in four studies. Concern arose when an earlier study found possible bleeding or brain abnormalities in up to 10 percent of patients on the drug. However, most were able to resume treatment after a brief break, said Dr. Eric Yuen.
Solanezumab, by Eli Lilly & Co., also is lab-made, single antibodies against amyloid.
Gammagard, by Baxter International Inc., is intravenous immune globulin -- multiple, natural antibodies culled from blood. A late-stage, 400-patient study wraps up late this year.