H. Lundbeck A/S Throws in the Towel on Alzheimer's Pill, Giving Leeway to Rival Axovant

H. Lundbeck A/S Throws in the Towel on Alzheimer's Pill, Giving Leeway to Rival Axovant February 8, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

VALBY, Denmark – Another experimental Alzheimer’s therapy bites the dust. Danish company H. Lundbeck A/S announced it was scrapping its late-stage programs for idalopirdine, a selective 5-HT6 receptor antagonist.

Shares of Lundbeck are down more than 5 percent since the company made the announcement this morning. H. Lundbeck is developing idalopirdine along with Japan's Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. Idalopirdine targeted the 5-HT6 receptor, which is expressed in brain regions involved in cognition, such as the cortex and the hippocampus, and modulates activity of multiple neurotransmitter systems. Lundbeck’s idalopirdine was believed to modulate the balance between excitation (glutamate) and inhibition (GABA) in the brain.

The announcement of the two failed trials, which was included in the company’s fourth quarter report released today, follows a previous Idalopirdine failure in September. When Lundbeck released data from that study, it said Idalopirdine showed “a weak efficacy profile” and failed to meet primary and secondary endpoints—even after promising Phase II results. This morning Lundbeck said the three trials "do not demonstrate efficacy to support a regulatory submission.”

While Lundbeck is giving up on idalopirdine, Axovant Sciences is continuing its work on a 5-HT6 receptor antagonist—a drug it acquired from Pfizer after that company gave up on it. While Axovant, which is helmed by Vivek Ramaswamy, has “shrugged off” Idalopirdine’s earlier failure, investors will certainly be taking a hard look at any data coming out of that company. Endpoints noted this morning that those doubts have “seriously eroded” that company’s market cap. Shares of Axovant are up slightly, trading at $12.94 this morning.

Lundbeck’s failure though is casting doubts on the efficacy of a 5-HT6 receptor antagonists to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia, affects 15 million people worldwide, a number that is expected to grow to 75 million by 2030 due, in part, to the lack of effective treatments. In total, there are about 50 million people suffering from some form of dementia worldwide. There are currently no drugs that target the cause of Alzheimer’s the most common form of dementia.

Finding a cure for Alzheimer’s has been a monumental struggle for pharmaceutical companies. The latest high profile Alzheimer’s drug to crash was Eli Lilly ’s solanezumab. In November, Eli Lilly announced solanezumab didn’t show a statistical slowing in cognitive decline compared to the placebo arm in Alzheimer’s patients in a Phase III trial. Those failures though don’t stop drug companies from reaching for the golden ring of developing a cure. Biogen continues to forge ahead with several experimental treatments in development, including aducanumab, which had a successful Phase II trial. Last year, New York-based Anavex Life Sciences Corp. reported anecdotal evidence its drug, Anavex 2-73, was showing positive response in a mid-stage trial. Two patients who were administered the drug were able to regain control of some motor functions and memories, including the abilities to play piano and paint. Although the results were miniscule, they were promising.

Back to news