Sometimes drugs work, and sometimes they don't. That's just the nature of drug development. For drugs treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), still known as Lou Gehrig's disease, it seems that the latter category is more often the case.
The latest drug to fail against the fatal disease was Teva Pharmaceuticals'
It would have been ironic if a drug whose mechanism of action isn't fully understood had worked on a disease whose cause is equally mysterious. Teva's move to test the drug on ALS patients wasn't a complete stab in the dark; there's some evidence that the immune system plays a role in the development of ALS, and Copaxone mitigates the body's immune response.
Fortunately for Teva, this was only a small phase 2 trial, so it didn't have to shell out a lot of money to discover the drug's ineffectiveness for ALS patients. And it's still selling Copaxone for multiple sclerosis, which saw 21% year-over-year increase in sales last year even in the face of tough competition from Elan's
Unfortunately for ALS patients, there are few options for treating the disease. Sanofi-Aventis'
The key to investing in biotech companies is to understand the risks involved and adjust your valuations accordingly. Given the track record of drugs attempting approval for treating ALS patients, I wouldn't give a positive value to any ALS drug in a pipeline until it had at least passed phase 2 trials. Even then, investors should proceed with caution until phase 3 results are announced.
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