Gammagard demonstrates signs of efficacy in PhII Alzheimer's study

A drug from Baxter ($BAX) that bolsters the immune system has demonstrated some positive effects among a small group of Alzheimer's patients in a mid-stage study, raising hopes in some quarters that investigators may finally be on the trail of an effective treatment.

After receiving Gammagard over three years, investigators report that 11 of 16 patients demonstrated improvements in thinking and behavior as well as routine, day-to-day functions. And four of these patients who were in the most effective treatment arm experienced no decline across a range of symptoms.

Gammagard is an IV-delivered immune system therapy that relies on antibodies extracted from healthy blood donors, an approach which has been used to fight infections among immune-compromised patients. Baxter believes that the same approach, quite different from the pair of late-stage drugs about to read out later in the year, could work for Alzheimer's.

"It's one of the first trials to really show some signs of therapeutic benefit in an affected population," Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Ralph Nixon tells Reuters. Further studies will explore if the immune system approach can work to delay or block development of the disease.

"If the final trial is successful this will provide a direction for treatment,'' notes study leader Norman Relkin of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, according to USA Today. "The key thing right now is to find an Achilles' heel for the disease. The disease has to have a vulnerability."

Alzheimer's is one of the biggest disease targets on the planet, afflicting millions of people. A partnership of J&J ($JNJ) and Pfizer ($PFE) are squaring off against rival Eli Lilly ($LLY) as they prepare to deliver Phase III data on bapineuzumab and solanezumab in the fall. But there's considerable skepticism that a drug targeting amyloid will work in any group of patients who have a fully developed case of the memory-wasting illness.

- here's the story from USA Today
- read the Reuters report

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