Biogen Idec's experimental drug significantly slowed cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients. Analysts said they were impressed with the results. Fred Katayama reports.
Big progress in a field littered with failures: Alzheimer's drugs. Biogen Idec's experimental drug became the first to significantly slow mental decline in patients. Its study showed it also reduced what's believed to play a key role in causing the disease: plaque in the brain. Cowen analyst Eric Schmidt called the results "impressive," citing the views of an Alzheimer's expert: "Our consultant confirmed that the data looked solid and convincing and saw no important caveats." Biogen said safety and tolerability were considered acceptable. But there were side-effects: a big jump in cases of water surrounding the brain tissue, and over a fifth of patients experienced headaches. The small study involved 166 patients with early stages of Alzheimer's. Biogen's shares rocketed higher, adding to its 28 percent gain this year. Robert W. Baird senior analyst Chris Raymond raised his price target to nearly $500, saying, "These data are more impressive than anything we've seen in Alzheimer's disease." Biogen's next step: a large trial that could be used to seek approval for the drug.