Alzheimer's disease

The outlook for Alzheimer's research keeps getting bleaker

Illustration of a slide puzzle with an image of a brain all mixed up.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After billions of dollars in research and hundreds of failed drugs, the race to come up with a treatment for Alzheimer’s keeps hitting wall after wall after wall. There are few signs of hope on the horizon, and researchers are starting to agree that they might have been on the wrong track for years.

Why it matters: Alzheimer’s is devastating. Nearly 6 million Americans have it, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, making it a leading causes of death. Another 16 million people are unpaid caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients, which can take a severe financial and emotional toll. Yet despite an army of medical researchers, the disease remains a black box.

Another Alzheimer's drug fails

A Biogen sign in front of its headquarters building.
Biogen's Alzheimer's failure drove its stock down 29%. Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Biogen and Eisai have ended late-stage trials for an Alzheimer's disease drug, less than a year after the pharmaceutical companies painted a rosy picture of the drug's potential. Biogen's stock plunged 29% on the news.

The big picture: It's always a bad sign when clinical trials are discontinued before data are analyzed. It's an even worse sign for Alzheimer's research and raises questions about whether scientists should abandon the idea that the brain disease is "caused by sticky clumps of protein called amyloid plaques," according to a 2016 story by Stat.

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