* New drug Lu AE58054 aims to alleviate symptoms
* Lundbeck science head sees potential sales above $1 bln
(Adds quotes, background)
By Shida Chayesteh
COPENHAGEN, Dec 16 Danish pharmaceutical group
Lundbeck said on Monday that it hopes to launch a new
Alzheimer's medicine in 2017 in what would be the first new drug
for the condition in more than a decade.
Dementia - of which Alzheimer's disease is the most common
form - already affects 44 million people worldwide and is set to
reach 135 million by 2050, according to non-profit campaign
group Alzheimer's Disease International.
There is currently no treatment that can cure the disease or
slow its progression, but Lundbeck's new drug - known as Lu
AE58054 - is designed to alleviate some of the symptoms and
improve cognitive function.
As such, it would build on treatments currently on the
market rather than competing with more ambitious projects under
way at large drug companies, which aim to modify the biology of
"If the studies that we are currently running end well, then
we will probably be the first company to launch a new
Alzheimer's drug in 10 to 15 years," Lundbeck Chief Scientific
Officer Anders Gersel Pedersen told Reuters.
The Danish company, together with its Japanese partner
Otsuka, is currently testing its experimental
Alzheimer's drug in 3,000 patients in four final-stage Phase III
Pedersen said he expected the drug to have annual worldwide
sales of considerably more than $1 billion, if it is approved.
"There is a huge market for this kind of medicine, until the
day you cure the disease," Pedersen said.
It is more than a decade since the last drug, Ebixa, also
from Lundbeck, was approved to treat Alzheimer's.
Although there is still no treatment that can effectively
modify the disease or slow its progression, a number of
companies - including Eli Lilly, Merck & Co,
Roche and Johnson & Johnson - are pursuing a
variety of approaches to get to the root of the memory-robbing
Health ministers from the Group of Eight countries last week
set a goal of finding a cure or a disease-modifying therapy by
2025 - a target that is seen as ambitious given that scientists
are still struggling to understand the fundamental biology of
(Editing by Simon Johnson and David Goodman)