Ahead of the Bell: Alzheimer's update in the works

The Associated Press

Scientists will give pharmaceutical investors long-awaited updates Monday on research behind potential Alzheimer's disease treatments from Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson.

Data from late-stage studies on Eli Lilly's potential treatment, solanezumab, and from J&J and Pfizer's bapineuzumab will be presented at a Boston meeting of the American Neurological Association.

Initial study data on both drugs showed that they failed to slow mental decline, but researchers see some potential in them for possibly helping patients with early stages of Alzheimer's.

Analysts and researchers have cautioned that this potential is remote, and more expensive clinical studies may be necessary. Even so, news from this meeting has the potential to move stocks because analysts say a potential Alzheimer's treatment that does more than temporarily ease symptoms could generate billions of dollars in annual revenue.

Alzheimer's is the country's sixth-leading cause of death and the most common form of dementia, a term for brain disorders that affect memory, judgment and other mental functions. Drugmakers have tried and failed for years to develop effective treatments for the disease. Current Alzheimer's treatments don't slow, stop or reverse mental decline.

Shares of Indianapolis-based Lilly have climbed have climbed 15 percent since the drugmaker announced on Aug. 24 initial results from late-stage studies of solanezumab. That price had risen only 2 percent the first eight and a half months of 2012.

Lilly said in August the drug failed to slow the rate of cognitive decline, which involves a person's ability to remember things, in two late-stage studies of about 1,000 patients each. But when data from the trials were combined, scientists saw a statistically significant slowing of that rate in the bigger population.

They also saw a statistically significant result when they examined a subgroup of patients with mild cases of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers also have said bapineuzumab might work if it is administered sooner to Alzheimer's patients.