Biogen Not Worried About Competing with Eli Lilly in Alzheimer’s Drug Market

Biogen Not Worried About Competing with Eli Lilly in Alzheimer’s Drug Market

Biogen CEO Christopher Viehbacher commented during the company’s first quarter earnings call that they are not worried about competing with Eli Lilly in the market for Alzheimer’s drugs. Both companies are working toward bringing their respective drugs to the market, with Biogen and Japanese drugmaker Eisai developing leqembi, and Eli Lilly developing donanemab and remternetug.

Reducing Amyloid Protein

Clinical trial data on both leqembi and donanemab indicate that they reduce amyloid protein, which is known to build up on the brain and disrupt cell function in Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers believe that the accumulation of amyloid plaque is the first step toward cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. Viehbacher noted that more positive data on donanemab “further reinforces” this argument.

Maintenance Doses Required

Viehbacher also commented that dosing the drug after it clears a certain amount of amyloid plaque in a patient may not be the best approach to treating the disease, as the plaque will accumulate in the brain again even after it has been cleared. This will likely require both Biogen and Eli Lilly to roll out maintenance doses that will keep plaque levels low. Biogen and Eisai are already preparing to apply for approval of maintenance doses for leqembi by the first quarter of 2024, while Eli Lilly has not yet announced similar plans for donanemab.

Market Potential

Both companies are racing to bring a new Alzheimer’s treatment to the market after their previous drugs failed. Biogen is banking on the success of leqembi after the disastrous approval and rollout of its old Alzheimer’s drug aduhelm last year. The company reported an $18 million loss from Alzheimer’s disease treatments during the first quarter. An estimated 6.7 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, with that number projected to rise to almost 13 million by 2050.


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