Pfizer R&D chief talks up chances for late-stage Alzheimer's drug

Chasing one of the holy grails in the drug business, Pfizer ($PFE) research boss Mikael Dolsten made a case for investors and industry watchers yesterday for why his company's and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) contender in this high-profile hunt has the "best chance" to alter the progression of Alzheimer's disease, Reuters reported.

With an estimated 5 million Americans suffering from the memory-stealing illness, and a lack of good drugs to combat the disease, a drug that could provide even modest benefits for patients could become a multibillion-dollar seller. And Dolsten appears to like the chances for Pfizer and J&J's experimental Alzheimer's drug bapineuzumab, which is in the final phase of testing needed to seek FDA approval. As quoted by Reuters, Pfizer's R&D chief even said data on the drug to date has been more compelling than those of Eli Lilly's ($LLY) blockbuster hopeful solanezumab.

Of course, there are few safe bets in the neuroscience field, and the Alzheimer's arena is littered with failures. In the second half of this year, both Pfizer and J&J as well as Lilly are expected to unveil Phase III data from their respective programs, providing more evidence of whether either of the two camps will be moving forward with their drugs or suffering yet another setback in the field.

Based on what they know so far, analysts have given Lilly's solanezumab a slim chance of success in its late-stage trial. As for Pfizer and J&J's program, Dolsten argued that midstage trials of bapineuzumab yielded more complete and compelling findings than Lilly has yet provided. He's talking a good game, and we'll see whether he can keep up the positive talk about the program after the Phase III data come in.

Beyond the business side of this contest, Alzheimer's patients and their families have the most at stake here and have shown signs that they are truly desperate for new therapies for the disease.

- here's the Reuters article

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