COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Diabetes drugmaker Novo Nordisk will start a late-stage clinical trial to test its semaglutide drug as a treatment for early Alzheimer’s disease, it said on Wednesday.
Novo shares were up 4.3% at 1418 GMT following the news.
Sydbank analyst Soeren Loentoft described the move as a “good signal”, showing Novo’s confidence in the drug, but warned developing treatments for Alzheimer’s was notoriously difficult.
“Many have tried without success in the last many years, so this is a high-risk study, and it is by no means certain that Novo’s semaglutide will have an effect,” he said.
The drug, a so-called GLP-1 analogue, works by stimulating insulin production in patients with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.
“Due to the growing unmet medical need and the increasing evidence of a potential therapeutic role for GLP-1, we will investigate the benefits of oral semaglutide in early Alzheimer’s disease,” Novo Chief Scientific Officer Mads Krogsgaard said in a statement.
The company said animal studies had shown semaglutide reduced neuroinflammation, which has an effect on cognition and function, and improved memory function.
Earlier human trials also showed a statistically significant reduction in the development of dementia within a small patient group, Novo said.
The phase IIIa trial, which will study the efficacy and safety of a daily 14 milligram dose of oral semaglutide, is set to start in the first half of 2021 and include about 3,700 people, Novo said.
The company’s once-daily pill-version of semaglutide has been approved to treat type 2 diabetes in the United States, Europe and Japan.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard. Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Mark Potter)