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Eisai abandons Alzheimer's drug in late-stage testing

Japanese company was advised treatment would miss goals

Eisai is one of many drugmakers worldwide hoping to develop Alzheimer's treatments. (Photo by Masayasu Ito)

TOKYO -- Japan's Eisai has called off late-phase clinical trials of an Alzheimer's disease therapy deemed unlikely to deliver hoped-for results, joining a slew of abortive attempts to develop a treatment.

Eisai and American partner Biogen halted the third phase of trials of the antibody, aducanumab, based on the findings of an independent committee. Safety concerns were not the reason, the companies said Thursday.

"This disappointing news confirms the complexity of treating Alzheimer's disease and the need to further advance knowledge in neuroscience," Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said in a news release.

The Japanese drugmaker will continue clinical trials for two other Alzheimer's treatments. One, an antibody called BAN2401, completed the second phase last year and will soon advance to the next.

Dementia is growing more prevalent as populations age, with more than 130 million patients expected in 2050. Sensing demand, drugmakers the world over are competing to develop therapies.

But the going is rough. U.S. pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Eli Lilly have both had drugs fail in trials in recent years, while Switzerland's Roche announced this January its decision to end clinical studies of another treatment.

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