The Race for an Alzheimer's Blockbuster

The market for Alzheimer's drugs might be heating up soon as a number of companies are testing similar drugs to treat the disease. The expectation is that one of these drugs will have a huge payoff.

Update 5/15/12: Reuters is reporting that one of Roche's Alzheimer's drugs was chosen to be part of the the government's National Alzheimer's Plan. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is granting the company $16 million to experiment with crenezumab on people with no signs of dementia. The trial will gauge whether early intervention can help prevent or slow the disease.

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Bloomberg

The market for Alzheimer’s drugs might be heating up soon as a number of companies are testing similar drugs to treat the disease. The expectation is that one of these drugs will have a huge payoff profiled Roche and the risk it’s taking a risk in pursuit of finding a drug to treat Alzheimer’s. In general, central nervous system treatments are high in risk, but they are most definitely high in reward. But Roche’s experimental drug gantenerumab will have to compete with drugs from Eli Lilly and Pfizer that attack the same protein.

Unfortunately, the last time Roche focused in brain therapy was Valium in the 1960s. The company is also coming off a tough failure with a good-cholesterol pill. Roche had hoped that dalcetrapib would be its next blockbuster drug, replacing Lipitor. And while Pfizer also scrapped its cholesterol drug, Eli Lilly’s evacetrapib drug is about to begin late-stage testing.

Eli Lilly is developing solanezumab, which has a second final-stage trial of its drug expected to complete in June. Eli Lilly’s solanezumab is coming off an earlier failure with semagacestat. Like Roche’s drug, solanezumab targets beta amyloid. But so does bapineuzumab, developed by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Elan.

Bloomberg

Unfortunately for Roche, its drug is only in the second of three stages of clinical trials, reported. And it won’t reach the market until after 2016.

However there might be light at the end of Roche’s tunnel. Because even though the company’s drug for Alzheimer’s wouldn’t reach the market until much later than Pfizer and Eli Lilly’s, the ISI Group revealed that out of a survey of more than 200 analysts, two-thirds expect the drugs to fail.

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Also, Roche’s pipeline is looking particularly strong, with four of its 10 brain drugs focused on treating Alzheimer’s. Read more: Cancer Tools Help Roche Push Ahead with Alzheimer’s Drug

Roche Alzheimer's Drug Picked for Major Test