Merck advances Alzheimer's treatment into Phase 3 clinicals

After passing an interim safety analysis, Merck's (MRK -0.6%) investigational BACE inhibitor MK-8931 will move into Phase 3 testing for the treatment of Alzheimer's.

MRK will also begin a Phase 3 study in early-stage prodromal patients.

This marks the first time a drug in this class has made it to Phase 3 trials, the company notes. A JPMorgan analyst cited by Reuters says the drug could see sales of $5B if it is eventually approved.

The news is of interest to Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND +0.7%) which would receive royalties on the product.

Here's Cantor's Irina Rivkind commenting: "We view this program as high risk given the failure rate in prior Alzheimer's compounds but do think that program progression removes an overhang from LGND."

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