Lilly-AstraZeneca latest to abandon Alzheimer's drug trials

(Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co and AstraZeneca Plc said on Tuesday they would discontinue late-stage trials testing their Alzheimer’s treatment, the latest among a slew of drugmakers to stop developing treatments for the memory-robbing disease.

The treatment, lanabecestat, belongs to a class of drugs called beta secretase cleaving enzyme (BACE) inhibitor, that blocks an enzyme involved in the production of a protein that creates brain plaques, considered a major cause of the disease.

Experimental Alzheimer’s drugs have had a dismal track record, with more than 100 failures, with Johnson and Johnson last month stopping mid-stage trials testing its BACE inhibitor drug.

Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, destroys brain cells and disrupts essential messaging pathways in the brain and has no cure. According to the World Health Organization, 35.6 million people have dementia worldwide and this number is expected to double by 2030.

The decision to abandon the Lilly-AstraZeneca trials was based on recommendations by an independent data monitoring committee which concluded that the trials were not likely to meet their primary goals upon completion, the companies said.

Another BACE inhibitor, elenbecestat, is being jointly developed by Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen.

Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta