Last month, drug company Genentech reported on the first clinical trials of the drug crenezumab, a drug targeting amyloid proteins that form sticky plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. The drug had been particularly effective in animal models, and the trial results were eagerly awaited as one of the most promising treatments in years. It did not work. “Crenezumab did not slow or prevent cognitive decline” in people with a predisposition toward Alzheimer’s.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) narrowly approved the use of Aduhelm, a new drug from Biogen that the company has priced so highly that it’s expected to drive up the price of Medicare for everyone in America, even those who never need this drug. Aduhelm was the first drug to be approved that fights the accumulation of those “amyloid plaques” in the brain. What makes the approval of the $56,000-a-dose drug so controversial is that while it does decrease plaques, it doesn’t actually slow Alzheimer’s. In fact, clinical trials were suspended in 2019 after the treatment showed “no clinical benefits.” (Which did not keep Biogen from seeking the drug’s approval or pricing it astronomically.)