Prothena raids pharmacy aisle for Alzheimer's trial accelerant, teaming with Walgreens

Prothena has enlisted an ally to boost its pursuit of Biogen and Eisai in Alzheimer’s disease. Working with Walgreens, the biotech aims to accelerate enrollment in an early-phase clinical trial of a potential rival to Leqembi.

In preclinical tests, the candidate, PRX012, bound to amyloid beta with greater affinity and avidity than lecanemab, the active ingredient in Leqembi, to raise hopes that Prothena may have the next advance in the treatment of Alzheimer’s on its hands. Prothena is now racing to wrap up a multiple ascending dose study of the anti-amyloid beta antibody and post top-line data from the first cohort by the end of 2023. 

Walgreens has stepped up to help Prothena hit that target. In recent years, the U.S. pharmacy chain, like rivals such as Kroger Health, has identified an opportunity to use its infrastructure to support enrollment in clinical trials.

Here’s the pitch. Using its pharmacy and patient-authorized clinical data, Walgreens will identify people who may be eligible to participate in Prothena’s clinical trial. Then, the retail giant will discuss the trial with potential participants and their caregivers, with talks happening at one of its nearly 9,000 locations, virtually or at the patient’s home. Interested patients will complete a prescreen for participation.

In theory, the model will enable Prothena to cast a wider enrollment net—and zero in on people who may meet its eligibility criteria—and thereby cut the time it takes to hit its targets. With Leqembi now approved, albeit with limited coverage, Prothena is enrolling patients at a time when an authorized rival drug is on the market.

The model could also extend Prothena’s reach into more communities, although participation will still be tied to proximity to its study sites, many of which are concentrated on parts of the U.S. coasts. Eisai took steps to make its phase 3 Leqembi program more diverse, resulting in a study population that was 4.5% Black and 22.5% Hispanic.