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expert reaction to news of discontinuation of drug trial of aducanumab in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease

Reactions to news that Biogen has decided to discontinue global trials designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of aducanumab in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease. The decision to stop the trials was based on analysis that the trials were unlikely to meet their primary endpoint upon completion.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“There are hundreds of thousands of people living with Alzheimer’s in the UK and this news is clearly disappointing for them and their families.  Once the full trial results are available, we must ensure they are shared and analysed in detail so that researchers can learn valuable lessons for the future.

“Alzheimer’s brain changes start decades before symptoms start to show and it is possible that anti-amyloid treatments may show benefits if given even earlier in the disease.  While improving the early detection of Alzheimer’s will help to answer this important question, todays findings reiterate the importance of exploring a range of treatment approaches for the disease.

“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and to reflect this we need a range of drug discovery programmes targeting different aspects of the disease.  The Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Alliance currently has 23 active drug discovery projects targeting harmful brain inflammation and other damaging processes in the disease.

“While today’s news is a set-back, it’s important to remember there are more than 20 potential Alzheimer’s drugs still in final stage clinical trials.  We must continue to support the pioneering researchers across the world who are taking us closer to unravelling this complex disease.  Now is the time to push even harder for the funding that will accelerate the search for that much-needed Alzheimer’s treatment.”

Fiona Carragher, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

“The halting of Biogen’s aducanumab is sad and unexpected news, but for the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, we mustn’t lose hope, or sight, of the bigger picture.

“Dementia is a vastly complex condition, which presents a huge challenge to researchers.  The lessons learnt from this amyloid targeting drug will inform future trials, taking us ever closer to a cure.  With no new drugs for over 15 years initiatives such as the UK Dementia Research Institute and the Alzheimer’s Society’s Drug Discovery programme are leading the field in identifying new treatments, that could one day slow down or stop the progression of this heart-breaking condition.  Research will beat dementia, but we urgently need more funding to make this a reality.”

Prof John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, UCL, said:

“It is very disappointing news that the amyloid antibody trial failed.  What this failure appears to teach us is that removing amyloid from the brain after it has deposited does little good.  This is the simplest explanation of the trial failure.  We will wait to see a more detailed analysis of the data from Eisai and Biogen and this may change our view: but this suggests that when people are already in the early stages of dementia, amyloid therapies alone will not work and we need new approaches.  The UKDRI is investing in these other approaches.  For amyloid therapies to work, we need to identify people before they start to lose nerve cells.  Using genetics this may be possible and this is also work that is being done in the UKDRI and in other labs throughout the world.”

Declared interests

Hilary Evans: Hilary doesn’t have any interests to declare.

Prof John Hardy: “I am on a UCL/Eisai project committee but not involved in clinical trial analyses or decisions.”

None others received.

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