The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a proposal designed to assist companies developing new treatments for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, before the onset of noticeable dementia. The draft guidance titled, “Guidance for Industry, Alzheimer’s Disease: Developing Drugs for the Treatment of Early Stage Disease,” explains the FDA’s current thinking about the way researchers can identify and select patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, or those who are at risk of developing the disease, for participation in clinical trials. For drugs designed to treat patients with overt dementia, the FDA currently requires that treatments not only show an effect on abnormal thinking, but also how well patients function. The goal for these trials is to ensure that any beneficial effect on thinking is associated with a clinically meaningful outcome for the patient, e.g., improvement or lack of decline in how patients feel or function. However, because patients with early Alzheimer’s disease have little-to-no impairment of global functioning, it is difficult to assess changes in function in these patients. This can make it difficult to determine if a given treatment’s effect is clinically important. FDA said it is seeking public comment on the draft guidance for 60 days. Bapineuzumab, an experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, is being developed jointly by Pfizer (PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Elan (ELN) also has a financial stake in the drug. Eli Lilly (LLY) is also developing solanezumab, an antibody against beta amyloid, a suspected underlying contributor to the disease's development.