Alzheimer’s Treatment Fails in Wider Study

  • Less than a year ago, I wrote about the promising results in an Alzheimer’s trial of an infusion called Gammagard. A story on then reported that the experimental drug had been shown to halt the mental decline in some patients. Admittedly, this was a small study, but the results were exciting.  


    Unfortunately, an announcement this week has given us a very disappointing update. reports that a larger study shows “…Patients who received infusions with Gammagard fared no better than those given a dummy solution.”


    Baxter International Inc. announced May 7 that Gammagard, a blood product it was testing, failed to slow cognitive decline or to preserve physical function in a major study of 390 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. According to the article, people who received 18 months of infusions with Gammagard fared no better than others given infusions of a placebo. Complete results of this study will be presented in July at an Alzheimer's conference in Boston.

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    Disappointing results from other trials

    Last summer, we who watch for news on these drugs were anxiously awaiting the results of late stage testing of the Alzheimer’s drugs bapineuzumab and solanezumab. Both drugs missed the “end points” of the studies, meaning that in the trials they didn’t produce the results required to be considered a success.


    All is not lost

    Still, the drug trials weren’t a total loss. First, of course, researchers learned more about what does not work. This type of information can be invaluable. Additionally, in these cases the drugs showed some promise if given earlier in the disease process than those trials required. Now, solanezumab and related drugs are being re-examined to determine if they may yet be useful if given soon enough.


    BRAIN mapping should contribute to understanding how the brain works

    Some of the best news this year has been the proposal to fund the BRAIN Initiative. This initiative, put before the people by President Obama in April 2012, would provide $100 million for a project that will map the human brain. The information gathered during this project could completely change the way doctors treat many brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s.


    Even failure represents progress

    What we need to remember is that even disappointing results from drug trials contribute to the body of knowledge that is compounding as researchers struggle to kill, or at least tame, the Alzheimer’s beast. While Gammagard sounded remarkable in a small study, the treatment let us down when used for a wider range of people.


    We have to hope that when the full report is studied carefully by knowledgeable researchers there will be new information that will help them move forward with increased confidence. We can’t afford, financially or in terms of human suffering, to give up the fight. Research will continue, and one day – we hope not too far in the future – there will be a way to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease.


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    Marchione, M. (2013, May 7) Drug fails to slow Alzheimer's in big study. Retrieved from


    LaPook, J. (2012, July 17) New Alzheimer’s Drug Shows Retrieved from;flexGridModule


    Medicalnewsnet. (2012, August 24) Lilly’s solanezumab Phase 3 trials on AD do not meet primary endpoints. Retrieved from 

    Lowe, D. (2012, August 24) In the Pipeline: Lilly's Solanezumab: A Miss or a Win? In The Pipeline. Retrieved from

Published On: May 09, 2013