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Promising Alzheimer’s treatment fails, drug maker says

NEW YORK — In yet another setback for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Baxter ­International said Tuesday that a promising new therapy had failed to halt the mental decline caused by the disease in a late-stage clinical trial.

Prospects that the drug might have some effect brightened last year when researchers reported that four patients who had received the maximum dose had gone three years without any decline in several measures of cognition and daily functioning, which they termed highly unusual.

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But as is often the case, anecdotal evidence failed to hold up when the treatment was subject to a large, randomized trial against a placebo.

Baxter said Tuesday that the immunoglobulin therapy did not significantly arrest the decline in either cognition or daily functioning when compared with a placebo. The trial involved 390 patients with mild to moderate disease who were treated for 18 months.

The company said it would discontinue other trials testing the drug as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

“We are currently reevaluating our approach,” Ludwig Hantson, president of Baxter’s bioscience business, said in a conference call with analysts Tuesday.

Still, Hantson said the company was not giving up entirely. He said there were some hints that the higher of two doses tested might have had some impact in patients with moderate disease, as opposed to mild disease, and also in patients with a gene variant called ApoE4 that raises the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Hantson said the company wanted to evaluate data it did not yet have, looking at biomarkers of disease.

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