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Merck halts late-stage trial of its AD drug due to lack of efficacy

Tuesday 14 February 2017

On 14 February, the US pharmaceutical company Merck - known as MSD outside the United States and Canada - announced the halt of its experimental Alzheimer’s disease (AD) drug verubecestat in a late-stage trial. This Phase 2/3 study, also known as the EPOCH study, was a randomised and double-blind study for people with mild to moderate AD. The purpose of the trial was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of two oral doses of verubecestat (12 and 40 mg) administered once daily.

Merck halted the study following the recommendation of an external data monitoring committee. The independent monitors determined no chance of a positive result and recommended ending the study.

Verubecestat belongs to a group of AD drugs called BACE inhibitors, which block the production of the beta secretase enzyme involved in the formation of toxic amyloid proteins. Merck said its APECS study, which is evaluating verubecestat in people with prodromal AD, would continue and results are expected in February 2019.