Big Pharma coalition will pool data on failed Alzheimer's drugs

Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis and Abbott Labs are releasing results from 11 failed Alzheimer's programs with the hope that the information will help researchers better understand the disease. Alzheimer's is a difficult-to-treat condition and clinical successes are few and far between. More drugmakers, along with the National Institutes of Health, plan to join the coalition in the future. The project is backed by the FDA and Science Foundation Arizona and will be monitored by the Critial Path Institute.

"Companies said they're running into a stone wall with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," Ray Woosley, chief executive of the Critical Path Institute, tells the Wall Street Journal. "We really believe drugs are failing because we honestly don't understand the disease." This first wave of data includes information on 4,000 patients. Allowing researchers to study a larger pool of patients will help them see how the disease progresses, identify subgroups, and--hopefully--develop more sophisticated computer models that could save time and money developing drugs.

The project is the FDA's response to criticism that it does more to hinder innovation than promote it. "I think the FDA recognizes that one thing that can accelerate drug development is sharing information that is relevant to a disease," FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein noted. The coalition against Major Diseases also hopes to pool Big Pharma's results for Parkinson's disease and tuberculosis drugs.

- read the Wall Street Journal story