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Alzheimer’s drug shows promise in early study results

Shares of Biogen and other drugmakers researching Alzheimer’s disease soared early Wednesday after Japan’s Eisai Co. said its potential treatment appeared to slow the progression of the deadly disease in a late-stage study.

Eisai announced Tuesday evening the results of a global study of nearly 1,800 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The drugmaker said early results showed its treatment, lecanemab, reduced patients’ clinical decline by 27% compared to a placebo or fake drug after 18 months of infused therapy. The patients were tracked using a scale that measures their performance in areas such as memory, judgement, problem solving and self-care.

Eisai Co.Ltd. said he would discuss the full research results at a conference in late November. He also plans to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

The company is already seeking fast-track approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, and the agency is expected to make a decision early next year. Eisai and Biogen will co-promote the drug.

Early results appear to be “quite robust” and will likely support regulatory approval, Mizuho Securities analyst Graig Suvannavejh said in a research note.

A statement from the Alzheimer’s Association called the results the most encouraging yet for potential treatments for the underlying causes of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disease with no known cure. Long-standing treatments on the market only manage symptoms, and researchers don’t fully understand what causes the condition.

Last year, Biogen’s Aduhelm became the first new Alzheimer’s drug introduced in nearly two decades. But it largely failed after debuting with a price tag of $56,000 per year, which Biogen later reduced.

Doctors have been hesitant to prescribe it, given weak evidence that the drug slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Insurers blocked or restricted coverage due to the drug’s high price and uncertain benefits.

Like Aduhelm, canemab, developed by Eisai and undergoing clinical trials, seeks to remove a protein called beta-amyloid from the brain.

But Eisai executives say lecanemab focuses more on floating clumps of the protein before it forms a plaque, which Aduhelm targets.

Eli Lilly and Co. is also developing a potential treatment, donanemab, which helps remove the protein.

Shares of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen Inc. jumped more than 50% in premarket trading Wednesday morning to hit $300. The stock had fallen significantly since Aduhelm’s debut last year.

Shares of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. rose 8%.

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