Merck & Co., Inc (NYSE:MRK)’s BACE may still make the home run
Eli Lilly stumbles once again in its journey to finding a useful drug for combating Alzheimer’s. Last year, a couple of late-stage trials for solanezumab, an injectable drug was unsuccessful in meeting primary endpoints in the patients suffering from mild-to-moderate disease. The Eli Lilly drug, called LY2886721, was in its Phase-II trial. The company has blocked the trial as few patients’ tests showed abnormal liver biochemical results. It is commonplace for companies to run numerous liver tests on its clinical trial patients as this is a very common safety issue that affects most drugs. The liver flushes out toxins from the body and the LY2886721 seems to have had a negative effect on it.
This Eli Lilly compound, had never really attracted too much attention. The drug that is being followed with a telescope is Merck & Co., Inc (NYSE:MRK)’s BACE inhibitor. This very recently began its Phase-II/III study with patients suffering from mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. When Merck announced this last December, it had noted that this was the very first drug with this kind of a mechanism, to move into this clinical research stage. If an issue crops up, it is likely to be uncovered in the phase II section that has 200 patient enrollments.
With Eli Lilly out of the way, at least for the moment, Merck might just have that extra lap in front of other runners with MK-8931, Its BACE inhibitor. In its phase 1 trial, MK-8931 had reduced the beta-amyloid amount in the cerebral spinal fluid by over 90%. However, it is not yet known whether this will actually reduce the amyloid plaques that are seen in brains of Alzheimer’s patients. In addition to this, what remains to be seen, is that even if there is a reduction in plaque will that have a clinical effect at all?
Despite all the hurdles, its not like companies are going to beat a retreat. The path to developing a successful Alzheimer’s drug has been strewn with thorns but the rewards will outweigh the failures. From a company’s viewpoint, even drugs that are not very likely to succeed are ones that they will probably lay their bets on.