Brain swelling reported in Lilly Alzheimer's trial

Eli Lilly is reporting that one patient enrolled in a study of Alzheimer's drug solanezumab experienced temporary brain swelling; however, it's not clear yet whether the subject was receiving the drug or a placebo. The patient was able to resume treatment after the issue had subsided. The news was reported by CEO John Lechleiter (photo) at the JPMorgan Healthcare conference. About 2,000 patients are enrolled in two late-stage trials of the drug.

Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are developing a rival drug, called bapineuzumab, and have also reported incidents of brain swelling. Bapineuzumab is designed to facilitate the clearance of amyloid plaque, which researchers believe contributes to the onset of Alzheimer's.

Last August, Lilly was forced to halt a study of another Alzheimer's drug--semagacestat--after preliminary results showed the drug did not slow disease progression and was associated with worsening of clinical measures of cognition and the ability to perform activities of daily living. That left solanezumab as the company's only late-stage candidate for Alzheimer's. The company is counting on the drug to help offset the loss of patent protection for Zyprexa, which brings in $5 billion a year.

- read the Reuters write-up