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AstraZeneca's Alexion halts late-stage trial for ALS drug

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By Reuters
AstraZeneca's Alexion halts late-stage trial for Lou Gehrig's drug
AstraZeneca's Alexion halts late-stage trial for Lou Gehrig's drug   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

-Drugmaker AstraZeneca said on Friday its newly acquired Alexion division will halt a late-stage trial of its treatment for a rare neurological disorder called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The decision came in after a review by an independent panel, which recommended the trial be discontinued due to the lack of efficacy, AstraZeneca said.

ALS, whose cause is largely unknown, weakens muscles and causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to break down, affecting physical function and leading to severe disability and death. ALS garnered international attention when New York Yankees player Lou Gehrig abruptly retired from baseball in 1939 after being diagnosed with the neurological disorder.

In 2014, the disease returned to the spotlight with the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, which involved people pouring ice-cold water over their heads, posting a video on social media, and donating funds for research on the condition, whose sufferers included late British physicist Stephen Hawking.

“We are disappointed by this outcome and what it means for patients with this devastating disease,” said Alexion’s Head of Development and Safety Gianluca Pirozzi.

There are no treatments for the underlying cause of the disease, and current therapy focuses on slowing down the progression of symptoms.

AstraZeneca shares were down about 1%, lagging a flat FTSE 100, in morning trade.

AstraZeneca’s $39 billion buyout of U.S.-based rare diseases business Alexion closed last month, and has beefed up its line of rare-disease medicines.