Alzheimer's trial fails after decades

A major drug trial aimed at treating Alzheimer’s disease has reportedly failed after a decade of research involving nearly 10,000 patients.

An injection, called bapineuzumab, was abandoned last Tuesday by the Irish business Elan and its US partners, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, after it reportedly failed to slow the march of dementia in a global program involving elderly people with mild to moderate symptoms.

“We are tremendously disappointed for patients and their care-givers who are suffering from Alzheimer's and our employees who have dedicated many years to advancing this technology,” Elan's chief executive, Kelly Martin, said.

Medical experts greeted the failure with dismay, saying it cast doubt on an entire field of neurological research that is seeking to tackle a build-up of plaque called beta-amyloid on the brain of Alzheimer's patients.

All the therapies prescribed by doctors for Alzheimer's reportedly tackle only the symptoms of the disease. Nothing has yet proven successful in attacking the underlying neurological progression of the condition.

Experts say there is still hope that attacking amyloid build-up at an earlier stage could be more effective, although this would mean carrying out trials on people yet to develop symptoms of dementia.

While this treatment reportedly failed, those living with dementia and their caregivers were given hope last Friday when dementia was announced as a national health priority in Australia.

For more information, read Dementia: national health priority.