Eli Lilly and Co said pooled data from two large studies show patients with mild Alzheimer's disease taking its experimental drug solanezumab had 34-percent less decline in memory over 18 months compared with those taking placebos.

In the pooled analysis presented on Monday at a medical meeting in Boston, the closely watched drug did not significantly protect against loss of physical functions.

Lilly was able to demonstrate the modest success by combining data from a pair of solanezumab studies that each failed their primary goal of slowing progression of the memory-robbing disease in the wider population of patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms.

The latest data lend further credence to the theory that Alzheimer's must be attacked early in the disease for drugs to have a clinically meaningful impact on the leading cause of dementia.

Initial data unveiled in August created doubts about whether the drug could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration without large new studies. The Lilly drug, like Pfizer Inc's bapineuzumab which also failed in pivotal studies, works by blocking a protein called beta amyloid that forms plaque deposits on the brain.