Eli Lilly has started enrolling patients into two large late-stage trials of solanezumab, the latest of the firm’s investigational treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Solanezumab, previously known as LY2062430, an anti-amyloid beta monoclonal antibody, is being investigated as a treatment to delay the progression of mild to moderate Alzheimer's. The Phase III trials will last 18 months and are expected to enroll some 2,000 patients aged 55 and over from 16 countries. Patients will take a 400mg infusion of solanezumab or placebo once every four weeks

Eric Siemers, medical director for Alzheimer's disease research at Lilly, noted that current therapies “may help with symptoms, but they haven't been proven to change the disease progression". He added that biomarker results from a Phase II solanezumab trial “give us hope that Lilly is on a path toward a treatment that may slow the rate of progression of Alzheimer's”.

Last year, Lilly began enrolling patients in two Phase III trials for a different potential treatment for Alzheimer's, a gamma-secretase inhibitor that also affects amyloid beta. The company added that its four late-stage trials will include approximately 4,600 patients with Alzheimer's in over 30 countries.

Lilly is one of the major drugmakers which has stated that Alzheimer’s research is a core area. The market is considerable as estimates show that 6%-8% of people over 65 are affected by the disease. Lilly notes that in 2005, the total cost worldwide of dementia, of which Alzheimer's is the most common cause, was estimated at $315.4 billion.