Two decades of Alzheimer’s research may be based on deliberate fraud that has cost millions of lives

Over the last two decades, Alzheimer’s drugs have been notable mostly for having a 99% failure rate in human trials. It’s not unusual for drugs that are effective in vitro and in animal models to turn out to be less than successful when used in humans, but Alzheimer’s has a record that makes the batting average in other areas look like Hall of Fame material.

And now we have a good idea of why. Because it looks like the original paper that established the amyloid plaque model as the foundation of Alzheimer’s research over the last 16 years might not just be wrong, but a deliberate fraud.

The suspicion that something was more than a little wrong with the model that is getting almost all Alzheimer’s research funding ($1.6 billion in the last year alone) began with a fight over the drug Simufilam. The drug was being pushed into trials by its manufacturer, Cassava Sciences, but a group of scientists who reviewed the drug maker’s claims about Simufilam believed that it was exaggerating the potential. So they did what any reasonable person would do: They purchased short sell positions in Cassava Sciences stock, filed a letter with the FDA calling for a review before allowing the drug to go to trial, and hired an investigator to provide some support for this position. —Daily Kos