Making Money Helping Alzheimer's Researchers

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY  ) 2010 purchase of Avid Radiopharmaceuticals is about to start paying off. After a rejection last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved Amyvid, a dye for detecting beta-amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease patients.

Amyvid is more of a process-of-elimination test; it can't actually diagnose Alzheimer's disease because plaques are seen in patients with other types of neurologic conditions and in older people with normal cognition. The lack of plaques, on the other hand, is an indication that a patient doesn't have Alzheimer's pathology. Before Amyvid's approval, the only way to diagnose the presence of plaques was through an autopsy, which is a little late for the patient.

Lilly claims 20% of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's through cognitive tests don't have the pathology upon autopsy, which kind of makes you wonder whether those patients don't have Alzheimer's, which would make Amyvid useful, or whether the pathologic definition needs tweaking. There's been a long-standing scientific debate whether the plaques are really a cause of Alzheimer's disease.

Given the debate and the fact that having a diagnosis doesn't really help a patient get better -- if it did, Lilly would be able to charge more because it would save insurance companies money -- I don't expect Amyvid to be a massive blockbuster. The test could, however, be of great help to drugmakers developing Alzheimer's drugs if it can help exclude from the clinical trials patients who don't have Alzheimer's and therefore wouldn't be helped by the drug candidate.

Amyvid is too late to help Eli Lilly's solanezumab and bapineuzumab -- being developed by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) , and Elan (NYSE: ELN  ) -- which are both scheduled to read out phase 3 data shortly. If the drugs fail, though, it might be possible to go back and do a small trial using Amyvid to see whether the drugs are able to reduce or eliminate plaques in patients with Alzheimer's. Both drugs are designed to attack the protein that forms the plaques.

Ironically, Amyvid could ultimately contribute to its own demise. If drugs are able to clear plaques, but that doesn't help patients, it would lend credence to the hypothesis that the plaques are just a byproduct of the disease and would make Amyvid less useful.

Fool co-founder David Gardner thinks this disruptive technology has the power to bring down Bill Gates' empire.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer and creating a diagonal call position in Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1858053, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/26/2016 12:06:11 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 2 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,169.27 -53.76 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,143.16 -8.17 -0.38%
NASD 5,283.40 -26.43 -0.50%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/25/2016 4:00 PM
LLY $77.75 Up +0.18 +0.23%
Eli Lilly and Co. CAPS Rating: ***
ELN.DL2 $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Elan CAPS Rating: ***
JNJ $113.96 Up +0.35 +0.31%
Johnson and Johnso… CAPS Rating: ****
PFE $32.28 Up +0.15 +0.47%
Pfizer CAPS Rating: ****