Merck & Co. has announced that it has ceased its clinical trial of a drug designed to help patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, citing that the drug did not show signs of helping patients. An outside committee monitoring the trial of the drug, verubecestat, found that the drug had “virtually no chance of having a positive clinical effect” on the participants. The study aimed to determine whether verubecestat had any impact on slowing cognitive deterioration of Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s treatments currently available on the market can limit the disease’s symptoms; however, pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to find a cure have failed thus far because scientists still do not understand what causes the deterioration. Verubecestat is now one of the many drugs that have failed to halt this process. Last year, Eli Lilly’s solanezumab failed to show progress.
Researchers closely watched verubecestat’s progress since it was in the most advanced stage of testing for BACE inhibitors: a type of drug designed to prevent the formation of beta amyloid proteins that are believed to be the cause of Alzheimer’s. AstraZeneca PLC and Eli Lilly are also looking to develop their own BACE inhibitors.
Merck is hoping that the drug may provide greater benefits to patients at an earlier stage of Alzheimer’s. For now, the dementia-inducing disease that affects five million Americans still eludes a cure that could improve patients’ mental well-being.