Cassava Sciences Stock Is a Buy on the Strength of a Promising Alzheimer’s Drug

Long-term investors should ignore the skepticism about Cassava Sciences (NASDAQ:SAVA) stock as well as worries about the company’s Alzheimer’s drug, simufilam.

A scientist holding up her biotech experiment in a small Petri dish.
Source: Shutterstock

Despite critics’ negativity, the recently-released interim results of the drug’s Phase 2 trial provide overwhelming evidence that simufilam will be the world’s first safe, highly effective treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Consequently, I advise investors to buy SAVA stock.

The failure to accept the obvious efficacy of Cassava’s simufilam reminds me of the prevalent questioning of the effectiveness of Gilead’s (NASDAQ:GILD) remdesivir treatment for the novel coronavirus in the first half of 2020.

Remdesivir, which appeared to have some efficacy against the coronavirus in the first six months of last year, was eventually shown to be significantly effective and generated billions of dollars of revenue for its developer, Gilead, despite the doubts of many naysayers.

Phase 2 Data and SAVA Stock

On July 29, Cassava reported that the cognition of 50 Alzheimer’s patients who had received simufilam for nine months had improved by an average of 18%. The patients, who had mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s also exhibited less dementia-related behavior after being treated with Cassava’s drug, the company stated.

What’s more, signs of Alzheimer’s in patients’ brains also showed meaningful improvements after nine months of treatment with simufilam, according to Cassava.

These signs are known as “biomarkers.” The company reported that two kinds of cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers of the disease decreased 38% and 18%, respectively after the treatment period.

Cassava also pointed out that, to its knowledge, this was the first time that the average cognition scores of Alzheimer’s patients had improved meaningfully during a nine-month drug trial.

Skeptics Won’t Be Moved

The rally of SAVA stock lost its steam on July 30 after STAT News reported doubts about the purported benefits among “Alzheimer’s scientists.” Researchers told STAT that Cassava’s study was “overblown, inappropriate, and uninterpretable.”

I was not able to access STAT’s article. Based on past experience with skeptics of the results of drug trials, however, I think it’s very likely that the criticism focused on the fact that Cassava’s study did not utilize a control group and was open, rather than double-blind.

There may also have been suggestions that the sample size was too small to be relied upon.

The main purpose of having control groups and double-blind studies is to prevent a placebo effect. But Seeking Alpha author Joe Springer reported that over 20,000 placebo patients in the trials of other Alzheimer’s drugs have, on average, experienced significant cognitive declines.

Common sense shows that it is extremely unlikely that the placebo effect in Cassava’s trial vastly outweighed the placebo effect in multiple previous trials. Yet that would have had to have happened for the meaningful improvement in patients’ cognition in Cassava’s trial to have been brought about by a placebo effect.

As for worries about the number of patients for whom results were reported, 50 participants is not a high number, but I believe that it’s a large enough sample to support fairly accurate inductions.

Common Sense Is Reliable

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, there was a lot of skepticism among scientists and journalists about the efficacy of remdesivir, despite multiple data points that showed the drug saved lives.

“Bears are pointing to the fact that, in a U.S. government-sponsored study, the drug failed to lower the fatality rate by a statistically significant amount,” I wrote in a May 13, 2020 article on remdesivir and GILD stock.

I contended that after receiving the drug at a Chicago hospital, only two patients out of 113 with severe cases of the virus died.

Yet, even later in the year, there was widespread skepticism about remdesivir’s ability to save lives.

For instance, on July 10, 2020, Adam Feuerstein, the STAT News reporter who wrote the recent article in which experts questioned the appropriateness of Cassava’s recent study, tweeted, “Be cautious on the new remdesivir mortality claim. {Gilead} is comparing a subset of severe #Covid19 patients from its SIMPLE study to a separate and retrospective, real-world cohort of severe patients treated with standard of care.”

But not surprisingly, at the end of the proverbial day, multiple studies carried out by independent researchers on the drug showed that it did indeed meaningfully improve survival rates for at least some groups of patients.

It’s true that other, relatively recent studies showed no survival benefit for the drug. But given the powerful demand for the treatment from countries, as shown by the drug’s strong sales, I believe that health experts realized that remdesivir does help patients survive longer.

Simufilam Should Be Lucrative for Cassava

For the first time, a drug that’s meant to address a root cause of Alzheimer’s was recently approved by the FDA. That drug —Biogen’s (NASDAQ:BIIB) aducanumab – has been mired in controversy.

Officials and experts have questioned its efficacy and some have suggested that it could be harmful overall. Indeed, the drug’s safety profile is worrisome, as some patients who took it experienced brain swelling.

Consequently, Cassava’s drug, which has an excellent safety profile and appears to be very effective, should be used much more extensively than Biogen’s aducanumab. Over 6 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to only grow going forward.

Given these points, I believe that  Simufilam is poised to vastly improve and possibly save millions of lives, generating very high sales for Cassava in the process.

The Bottom Line on SAVA Stock

The data on Simufilam strongly indicates that it is a safe and effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, making it quite superior to  Biogen’s aducanumab.

Consequently, I expect Simufilam to receive breakthrough designation from the FDA and eventually be approved by the agency. The drug looks poised to generate tens of billions of dollars of revenue for Cassava.

As a result, the current $4.2 billion market capitalization of SAVA stock makes the shares a great buy for long-term investors.

On the date of publication, Larry Ramer held a long position in SAVA. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

Larry Ramer has conducted research and written articles on U.S. stocks for 13 years. He has been employed by The Fly and Israel’s largest business newspaper, Globes. Larry began writing columns for InvestorPlace in 2015.  Among his highly successful, contrarian picks have been GE, solar stocks, and Snap. You can reach him on StockTwits at @larryramer.

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