AVXL shares soar as CEO clarifies math on Alzheimer’s treatment

Anavex Life Sciences (AVXL ) said its experimental Alzheimer’s treatment is targeting a mid-stage study, sending AVXL stock soaring Friday.


Anavex said patients taking its pill, called blarcamesine, experienced a 45% slower decline in symptoms than those in the placebo group on a measure of symptoms. But critics questioned the company’s math, suggesting that subtraction problems may indicate a much lower effect.

Chief executive Christopher Misling said their perception of the data was incorrect.

“For (effectiveness), statistics don’t work like that,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. “We don’t look at the average of all patients at the beginning and at the end. We look at each patient from start to finish because that’s what matters.”

Despite a broadly lower stock market today, AVXL stock surged 32.1% near 11.70.

AVXL Stock: Clarifying Statistical Issues

Anavex tested blarcamesine in a 48-week study involving 509 patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers weighed treatment outcomes against a 70-point measure of cognition called the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale. Before treatment, the patient had a score of 27.62. After treatment, the blarcamesine score was 30.36.

On average, the change over 48 weeks was 2.26 points, Anavex said in its presentation. That’s what the company’s critics say the average change should be 2.74 points — the score at week 48 subtracted from the score before treatment. This change in subtraction would result in an effective rate of 33%.

Missing says statistics don’t work that way.

“The correct calculation is per patient,” he said. “It’s not a simple end-of-trial minus baseline calculation that you can do on a calculator. It’s a per-patient calculation.”

Using the same symptom scale, Anavex said patients treated with blarcamesine were 84 percent more likely to show cognitive improvement, or at least a half-point increase.

On a scale measuring activities of daily living, blarcamesine recipients were 167 percent more likely than placebo recipients to improve by at least 3.5 points. The company did not provide specific patient numbers for the improvement. Still, AVXL stock is soaring.

Anavex said the drug was generally safe and well tolerated. The most common side effect associated with experimental Alzheimer’s treatments is dizziness.

Shares reverse downtrend

Anavex will publicly release additional data as it becomes available, Missling said.

“We did receive it on Wednesday,” he said. “We don’t have the opportunity to calculate more than these top-line figures, and for regulatory reasons, we have an obligation to inform the public about this because it’s important.”

Shares hit a 10-month high in November, but have since plummeted. AVXL stock reversed that downtrend on Friday following the company’s presentation late Thursday.

“There will be more data behind this (that),” Misling added. “We don’t have any more information than we have today.”

Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter: @IBD_AGatlin.

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