A road block for RAGE no success for Alzheimer’s treatment

Lack of any positive effect on people with Alzheimer’s disease brought a phase 3 clinical trial to a halt. Learn more from our Summer 2018 issue of Care and cure magazine.

The study was testing whether after 18 months of treatment with a drug called azeliragon, people with Alzheimer’s would do better on thinking and memory tests than people taking a placebo.

Azeliragon was designed to stop the immune system of the brain becoming overactive. The researchers knew that this over activation turned on a chemical called RAGE.

Amyloid beta is a protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, and RAGE might be the trigger that turns amyloid beta toxic, causing brain cells to die. Early testing of the drug had looked encouraging. Results had suggested that using the drug to block RAGE could stop amyloid beta from damaging the brain.

In early clinical trials, it looked like azeliragon might have needed more time to show an effect. Unfortunately, this longer phase 3 study confirmed that the drug had no benefit for people with Alzheimer’s.

Jargon buster

  • A phase 3 trial is a trial has made it through the first two phases of safety testing and is now being tested on a large group of people.
  • A placebo drug is made from a chemical that is known to have no effect on a person.
  • The ‘placebo effect’ occurs when a person takes a pill and starts feeling and acting better, not knowing that the pill was a placebo.

    If the drug works then its effect will be far greater and last longer than the ‘placebo effect’. By having some people take a placebo researchers can cancel out this effect and be sure that it truly is the effects of the drug that is helping the person, not the placebo effect.