At a glance: New contender in anti-Alzheimer’s market

We hear there’s a new drug in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease It’s not on the market yet, but Phenserine has been tipped to join the list of anti-Alzheimer’s drugs.

According to early indications this month from its manufacturer, US-based biotech firm Axonyx, it can slow the advance of the disease in mild to moderate cases. Axonyx says it is studying data and plans to report its findings, from a trial that began in 2003, in March.

What would Phenserine’s competition be in the UK?

Of course, the drug still has to get regulatory approval, but the current UK market leader is Pfizer’s Aricept, the first brand to be licensed in the UK specifically for Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago. The others are Exelon by Novartis and Shire’s Reminyl.

All three are for mild to moderate dementia and their selling point is that they temporarily improve memory or delay memory loss.

A further brand on the market, Merz’s Ebixa, was launched in 2002 and is for moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer’s.

What are other groups saying about Phenserine?

It doesn’t seem to have appeared on the radar. The Alzheimer’s Society, which estimates that dementia affects around five per cent of the UK population, says it hasn’t, as yet, come across the drug.

However, Nasdaq-listed Axonyx’s share price rose on the back of trial news.

So what’s on the horizon in PR terms at present?

Along with patient groups, psychiatrists and GPs are the main targets of campaigns in the market, while education work tends to emphasise the importance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Anything we should be looking out for?

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is reviewing the drugs on the UK market (PRWeek, 12 November 2004) and is due to publish its new guidance in May.

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