Enbrel, Pfizer's blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but the company didn't investigate further or make the connection public, WashPost reports.
Details: The pattern was found through analyzing insurance claims. Company researchers urged a clinical trial, which they estimated would have cost $80 million, to see if the link was real.
- But Pfizer decided that Enbrel doesn't have the potential to prevent Alzheimer's because it doesn't affect brain tissue.
Pfizer says the decision not to conduct a clinical trial was based solely on science, and it didn't publish its data because it was skeptical about the results.
- But critics say there may be financial element: Enbrel has reached the end of its patent, reducing the incentive to look for additional uses for the drug as generics enter the market.
- One former Pfizer executive told the Post that spending money on a clinical trial when the company had doubts about the results of its initial analysis didn't make much business sense.
Some scientists say that just publishing the data could have been useful to researchers.