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RED HOT Contributors


Decades-Long Quest To Battle Alzheimer’s Dealt Latest Blow As Merck Pulls Plug On Anticipated Drug


Similar treatments from Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have all come up short in recent years. Meanwhile, treatments for mental illnesses have seen few advances despite increased understanding of the diseases.

Stat: The Next Big Alzheimer’s Trial Came Up A Dud
Merck pulled the plug on a closely watched trial in Alzheimer’s disease after finding out its in-development drug had no effect on patients with mild forms of the disorder. The drug, verubecestat, showed “virtually no chance” of meeting its goal in a 2,200-patient study, Merck said. The trial was meant to read out later this year, but Merck, on the advice of its independent data monitors, pulled the plug early. (Garde, 2/14)

Stat: Scouring The Brain For Clues To New Treatments For Mental Illness
While demand for mental health drugs has surged, big pharmaceutical companies have largely backed away from investing in the field; the number of psychopharmacological drug research programs has shrunk 70 percent in the last decade, according to NeuroPerspective…To advance the field, researchers say they need to find biomarkers — tangible biological clues that can help diagnose mental illness, just the way high blood glucose levels can signal diabetes. The hope is that those biomarkers could help pinpoint what’s gone wrong in the circuitry of a particular patient’s brain and offer clues for drug development — and, perhaps one day, even precision psychiatric therapies. (Keshavan, 2/15)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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