Sunday, March 21, 2010

Potential Alzheimer's Drug Flames Out

A closely-watched drug that was supposed to offer hope to Alzheimer’s sufferers failed miserably in Phase III trials this month, according to a press release from Pfizer, one of the pharmaceutical companies involved in its development. In all likelihood all further research on the drug will stop.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this, although looking back it may not be as surprising as it sounds. The drug, called Dimebon, was actually an antihistamine previously sold only in Russia. The Phase I and Phase II trials (efficacy in animals and limited safety tests in humans) were performed in Russia, and then the drug was patented and brought to the United States for Phase III trials and future marketing as an Alzheimer’s treatment. Apparently it doesn’t work.

Although people sometimes complain (rightly) that the drug approval process in the United States is expensive and time-consuming, there’s a good reason for the process. It protects us all.

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