Summary of “Why Pfizer didn’t report that its rheumatoid arthritis medication might prevent Alzheimer’s”

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.
Pfizer did share the data privately with at least one prominent scientist, but outside researchers contacted by The Post believe Pfizer also should at least have published its data, making the findings broadly available to researchers.
As Enbrel’s life cycle winds down, Pfizer has introduced a new rheumatoid arthritis drug, Xeljanz, that works differently from Enbrel.
Wagering money on a clinical trial of Enbrel for an entirely different disease, especially when Pfizer had doubts about the validity of its internal analysis, made little business sense, said a former Pfizer executive who was aware of the internal debate and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal Pfizer matters.
Another former executive, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Pfizer operations, said Pfizer offered virtually no explanation internally for opting against further investigation in early 2018, when the internal debate ended.
Pfizer’s analysis about potential Enbrel benefits in the brain sprang from the company’s division of immunology and inflammation, based in a large Pfizer office complex in Collegeville, Pa. Statisticians in 2015 analyzed real world data, hundreds of thousands of medical insurance claims involving people with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, according to the Pfizer PowerPoint obtained by The Post.
“A clinical trial to prove the hypothesis would take four years and involve 3,000 to 4,000 patients, according to the Pfizer document that recommended a trial. The document said Pfizer would gain a positive public relations”halo effect” by investigating an Alzheimer’s treatment.
Enbrel reduces inflammation by targeting a specific protein called TNF-a. The Pfizer analysis of claims data added to a growing body of evidence that broadly targeting TNF-a in the body has the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s, said Holmes, the professor of biological psychiatry at the University of Southampton.

The orginal article.