AstraZeneca and Lilly move Alzheimer's drug into big trial

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[December 01, 2014]  LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly said on Monday they had started a large trial of their experimental Alzheimer's drug, seen as a promising, but still risky, approach for slowing the memory-robbing disease.

The pivotal Phase II/III clinical trial will involve more than 1,500 patients with early Alzheimer's, the first one of which has now been enrolled. The study is expected to complete in May 2019, according to the website.

AstraZeneca, which initially developed the drug, signed a partnership deal with Lilly in September for the product, known as AZD3293 or LY3314814.

The medicine works by blocking an enzyme called beta secretase that is involved in production of beta-amyloid, a protein that creates brain plaques. Such medicines are known as BACE inhibitors.

Merck & Co is currently viewed as being in the lead in the BACE inhibitor field, having announced plans for a Phase III trial a year ago.

Oral drugs to block beta secretase have taken centerstage after an injectable class of medicines, meant to remove plaque once it has already formed, disappointed in trials conducted by Pfizer and Eli Lilly in 2012.

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(Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Louise Heavens)

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