Roche, a large Swiss drug manufacturer, suffered a series of unpleasant blows, to say the least, last week when they announced that two drugs had failed their respective clinical studies. One of the drugs was aimed at treating breast cancer, while the other was designed to treat Alzheimer’s. The result was their stock declined by the highest percentage in the past five years.
The company declared they would be ending the late-stage study for gantenerumab, an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s, after the drug proved to be ineffective. However, the failure of Kadcyla, a new drug for breast cancer, hurt the company even more as it harmed their goal of making broader sales in a segment it has been dominant in for a long time.
A Kepler Cheuvreux analysts, Fabian Wenner, stated that predictions on annual sales for Kadcyla, which were expected to reach $2.56 billion in 2020, would have to be significantly reduced.
The study Roche conducted was on women who had advanced HER2-positive breast cancer and had not been treated so far. The company used three of their approved treatments, namely Herceptin, Perjeta and Kadcyla, which revealed that the treatments helped patients live a longer life without their disease getting worse. However, the two treatment options that contained Kadcyla didn’t offer better results, which hurt expectations that the drug would become a new care standard.
Roche shares fell over 5 percent. Roche has had on of the most effective and producing research divisions in the sector in recent years.
The Alzheimer’s setback is a disappointment for the whole sector because a lot of experts had been hoping that Phase III of the study, which was the last stage, being conducted on patients suffering from pre-dementia or prodromal disease, would yield better results. Researchers are trying to find effective treatments that can be used before the patients’ minds are destroyed by the disease.
Unlike cancer and heart disease, which have experienced significant advances on the drug development side, it’s been a decade since any treatments were developed for Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is the most widespread form of dementia and already affects 44 million people on a global scale. This number is expected to grow by 300 percent by 2050, says the Alzheimer’s Disease International advocacy group.
Roche experienced another setback with an experimental drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s at the start of the year. Sandra J. Horning, the chief medical officer of the company, stated that they were committed to the investigation of new treatment options for the devastating condition.
Gantenerumab will be studied some more in another Phase III trial on patients that have the disease at a later stage. Roche is testing another two experimental Alzheimer’s drugs, namely crenezumab and RG1577, which are in Phase II stages.