Eli Lilly, a medical company that has been working for three decades in finding Alzheimer cure finally managed to get first results in its human testing program.
The latest drug works on an aberrant protein called tau. The protein spreads in the brain as Alzheimer progresses, accumulates in tangles and strangles brain cells and impairs them to function properly.
Until now, drug companies focused on amyloid, another protein that was thought to trigger the disease. Research clinics heavily invested in amyloid treatments, but with little to no success.
In 2010, Eli Lilly had to stop clinical trials because patients treated with the new drug were showing proofs of increased deterioration. In 2012, another company had to admit that their new medicine did not improve the condition.
In total, almost 190 Alzheimer drugs have failed to show any improvements in human trails.
The reason for which big pharma companies still try to obtain an Alzheimer cure is that there are more than 5 million Americans with the disease, and the number may double in the next thirty years.
The sale for existing medicine reached the value of $3 billion. And these drugs treat only the symptoms.
“If any of these drugs actually manage to slow the progress of the disease, their sales potential would be orders of magnitude higher,” says Sam Fazeli, senior pharmaceuticals analyst.
A century after the disease was discovered, scientists still do not know if the amyloid protein is the main cause of the condition or just a minor factor.
However, other companies such as Merck continue with the former theory and work on medicines based on a rare gene mutation that protects the brain against the amyloid spread. Merck will complete its final stage trial next year.
New approaches in curing Alzheimer have led to investments of $350 million. However, the tau protein had not so much time to be tested. Some companies even managed to obtain negative results when testing their drugs, as just a part of their trials showed improvements.
Other researchers believe that, while the amyloid is the trigger of the disease, the tau protein can be the factor that produces the brain tangles and clumps.
AbbVie and TauRX Pharmaceutics are other two companies that invest in new Alzheimer cures. The first results are expected to appear as early as July.
The vast majority of researchers say that the new drugs are more potent, and they prove to be more efficient when tested in the early stages of the conditions.
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