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- Sep 22, 2018
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Why didn't it tell the world? Drug companies frequently have been pilloried for not fully disclosing negative side effects of their drugs. What happens
A team of researchers inside Pfizer made a startling find in 2015: The company’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis therapy Enbrel, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 64 percent.
The results were from an analysis of hundreds of thousands of insurance claims. Verifying that the drug would actually have that effect in people would require a costly clinical trial - and after several years of internal discussion, Pfizer opted against further investigation and chose not to make the data public, the company confirmed.
Researchers in the company’s division of inflammation and immunology urged Pfizer to conduct a clinical trial on thousands of patients, which they estimated would cost $80 million, to see if the signal contained in the data was real, according to an internal company document obtained by The Washington Post.
“Enbrel could potentially safely prevent, treat and slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease,″ said the document, a PowerPoint slide show that was prepared for review by an internal Pfizer committee in February 2018.
The company told The Post that it decided during its three years of internal reviews that Enbrel did not show promise for Alzheimer’s prevention because the drug does not directly reach brain tissue. It deemed the likelihood of a successful clinical trial to be low. A synopsis of its statistical findings prepared for outside publication, it says, did not meet its “rigorous scientific standards.″
Science was the sole determining factor against moving forward, company spokesman Ed Harnaga said.