Elan Corp. (NYSE: ELN) and its development partners, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Johnson and Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), announced that their Alzheimer’s treatment candidate, bapineuzumab, did not achieve the co-primary clinical endpoints (change in cognitive and functional performance) vs. placebo in Study 302, a Phase III trial in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease who carry the ApoE4 (apolipoprotein E epsilon 4) gene. These patients represent the population with the highest risk for developing the disease, and it is estimated that approximately 60% of those with late onset Alzheimer’s disease are ApoE4 carriers. Some say that these patients have progressed so significantly that they cannot be helped, while others believe that this is the patient population that should benefit the most from this plaque-removing treatment. Nevertheless, the failed trial is a negative sign for the Phase III program and the hope that bapineuzumab (or therapies that act similarly) may demonstrate consistent utility in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
A visible competitor that does act by a similar mechanism is Eli-Lilly’s (NYSE:LLY) solenezumab, for which the excitement has taken LLY shares from the mid-$30 range to over $40 a share. Additional Phase III results for bapineuzumab and those for solenezumab are anticipated later this Summer, and hopefully, we will see some progress in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, investors are likely to sell off ELN, PFE, and LLY today on the negative news.