How many drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease have failed? Why do so many new therapeutic drugs fail in development?

This topic came up in the context of a conversation with my colleagues in the Science Gallery, who are putting on an exhibition called Fail, which will explore the question: ‘Can we change our perception of failure in order to embrace this essential driver of innovation?’

There have been many failed Alzheimer’s disease drug trials. This is a very partial list: bapineuzumabgammagardlatrepirdine/dimebon (also); rosiglitazone; it has been estimated that there have been (at least) 101 others. These are astonishing numbers with terrible human and economic costs associated with them. Little wonder that so many pharma companies are exiting neuroscience, given the timelines and costs for drug development (estimated at anything up to $5 billion for a new compound, although see this for an alternative set of estimates).

Auguste Deter. Alois Alzheimer's patient in No...
Auguste Deter. Alois Alzheimer’s patient in November 1901, first described patient with Alzheimer’s Disease. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why Do All the Large Alzheimer’s Drug Trials Fail? is a great piece that explains many of the difficulties – AD presents unique challenges for drug trials, given the very long lead times, enormous inter-patient variability, recruitment of volunteers, co-morbidity, etc.

Sense About Science have produced a great document which explains why drug development is so difficult:

Making Sense of Drug Safety Science -Investigating the science of side effects

  • Experiencing side effects is unpleasant, and not understanding them is frustrating. While it’s impossible to have a drug with no side effects, this guide explains why they happen and what can be done about them.The guide was developed in collaboration with the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science at the University of Liverpool.

    Published: 13 November 2013

    Download: Making Sense of Drug Safety Science

     

Author: Shane O'Mara

Neuroscientist

One thought on “How many drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease have failed? Why do so many new therapeutic drugs fail in development?

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