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Wyeth shares rise on promising study of Alzheimer's drug

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Stephanie Saul
New York Times News Service / June 18, 2008

Drug maker Wyeth yesterday said an investigational product for treating Alzheimer's showed promise in an intermediate clinical study.

The news of an advance in Wyeth's program to develop Alzheimer's treatments sent shares up $2.11, or 4.9 percent, to close at $45.19.

The product, called bapineuzumab, is one of 23 different avenues Wyeth is exploring under its so-called "war on Alzheimer's."

The study data will not be fully disclosed until next month, but the company said yesterday that bapineuzumab improved cognitive functioning in a subset of patients, those who did not carry a genetic variation called ApoE4. Noncarriers make up 40 to 70 percent of Alzheimer's patients.

The results were important because on a test of cognitive functioning in Alzheimer's patients, the mean score decline over 18 months is 6.5 points. In the 18-month study of bapineuzumab, the patients negative for ApoE4 declined 2 to 2.5 points, or 4 points better, according to Ian Sanderson, senior research analyst for Cowen & Co.

"Anything north of a 2 point spread would be considered clinically significant," Sanderson said.

Wyeth said MRI results of those same patients showed less loss of brain volume among treated patients compared with those given a placebo.

Wyeth chief executive Bernard J. Poussot said the company was "encouraged" by the findings.

The results were deemed positive despite the fact that the study of 240 patients did not meet its primary endpoints. That was because the drug did not appear to have the same effect on patients carrying the ApoE4 gene.

Wyeth and its partner in the project, Elan Corp., had already said last year they had moved to a phase 3 study of the product based on an interim look at the results made public yesterday.

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