Merck & Co said it will
advance its experimental Alzheimer's drug into late-stage trials among patients
with mild to moderate disease, after an independent monitoring board reviewed
its safety and recommended the trial continue to recruit patients.
The data monitoring
committee gave its blessing to a far larger trial involving almost 2000
patients after examining interim safety data from a mid-stage trial of 200
patients who had been treated with the medicine, called MK-8931, for at least
three months, Merck said.
The medicine works by
blocking an enzyme called BACE that is involved in the production of
beta-amyloid, a protein that creates plaques in the brains of people with
BACE inhibition is
considered the most promising new approach to slowing progression of
Alzheimer's disease, after other efforts to directly block beta amyloid have
failed or fallen short in trials conducted by Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly and Co. and
other drug makers.