Biogen Idec Discontinues Work on ALS Drug

spineA company called Biogen Idec has decided to discontinue work on an experimental drug that was designed to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease (which is also called A.L.S.). The drug failed to work in a late stage clinical trial. There is another company that is continuing to work on a different drug for the disease.

Lou Gehrig’s disease is also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This long, multi-syllabic, name is often shortened to A. L. S. when it is discussed. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and in the spinal cord.

According to the ALS Association, symptoms can start out very subtly and may be overlooked. Symptoms can include muscle weakness in the hands, arms, legs, or the muscles of speech, swallowing or breathing. It can include twitching and cramping of muscles, or impairment of the use of arms and legs. Other symptoms include difficulty projecting the voice. In the more advanced stages, A. L. S. can result in difficulty with breathing.

Biogen Idec had been working on an experimental drug that was intended to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease. The drug was called dexpramipexole. It failed to work in a late-stage clinical trial. As a result, Biogen Idec has decided to discontinue working on this drug.

There was more than one thing that it was hoped the drug would be helpful with. It ended up being ineffective at slowing the loss of muscular function. It was also ineffective at prolonging the lives of the people who had the disease. There were no signs that dexpramipexole worked with any subgroup of patients.

There is hope, however. Another company, called Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals, which is located in Palo Alto, California, is working on a different drug that is intended to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease. The drug is being called NP001. It is about to enter the final stage of a clinical trial. According to the New York Times:

Neuraltus announced in late October that its Phase 2 trial, which involved 136 patients, had failed to show a statistically significant benefit compared with a placebo. But the company said 27 percent of patients receiving the high dose of NP001 had no progression of their disease for six months, two and a half times as many as in the placebo group.

Image by Michael Dorausch on Flickr

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