Eli Lilly and Co. have announced that their experimental Alzheimer’s treatment has failed to slow mental deterioration in its latest study. Consequently, Lilly shares dropped 11.7 percent on Wednesday.
The announcement also caused a 4.3 percent drop in Biogen shares. Biogen is in the process of testing a similar drug—and they are running into the same kind of problems as Lilly.
Lilly has spent about $3 billion on Alzheimer’s research over the last 27 years.
Despite these setbacks, this isn’t the end for treatments using solanezumab. Lilly intends to continue testing solanezumab in an A4 trial with people who do not have Alzheimer’s yet but have developed brain plaques that could lead to the onset of the disease.
“There are other approaches that we need to pursue,” said Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association. “We need to redouble our efforts.”
And in terms of financial growth, Lilly execs aren’t done yet: they are still forecasting a revenue growth of at least 5% for the 2015-2020 period. This is likely due to the successful testing and packaging of approved treatments for diabetes, cancer, and other medical conditions.
Still, it’s been a rough time for pharmaceuticals. Up and coming biotech firm Juno Therapeutics also announced that the Food and Drug Administration has put Juno’s lead cancer treatment program on hold after two patients died. This is the second regulatory setback for the company, whose stock plummeted 30 percent in response.
For Lilly, at least, the future holds more tests. The solanezumab treatment will undergo two more studies, and at least 18 other drugs are in late-stage testing, as well as dietary therapies, supplements, and medical devices.
Another approach suggested by medical experts is for solanezumab tests and others like them to be run on patients earlier on in the course of the disease, when the medication might be able to stop neurological damage before it happens rather than trying to reverse it.
In any event, companies like Eli Lilly and Juno must take the financial hit for now and hope for better results in their next round of tests.