When the ‘real thing’ becomes a mirage: How patients in Alzheimer’s trials are coping with the treatment’s failure

The disheartening news came when Phil Gutis was already upset, crying to his husband because he was having trouble remembering Abe, their Jack Russell terrier who died last year.

Down in Florida, Geri Taylor was leaving yoga class when her friend’s husband called and said it was over. “I was certain he had made a mistake,” she said.

On the West Coast, most people woke up to the shock that was already reverberating among dozens of clinical trial sites, pummeling a company’s stock price, and erasing the hope that so many patients and caregivers had been so tightly holding onto.

When Biogen and its partner Eisai announced that they were stopping two phase 3 trials of the Alzheimer’s treatment aducanumab because the drug did not appear to be working, it shattered the faith that a truly effective therapy — one that could decelerate the descent that came with the disease — was finally in reach. It ignited reckonings both for Massachusetts-based Biogen and for the underlying scientific theory of Alzheimer’s on which aducanumab was constructed.

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