Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly's stock was down 8 per cent yesterday after the company said it will no longer pursue development of a key cholesterol drug.
According to the company, it had ended late-stage development of evacetrapib, which formed part of a costly study involving 12,095 patients at 540 sites in 37 countries. The drug was in Phase 3 development - the final stage before submission to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.
According to commentators, the move represents a significant setback for Lilly, which saw shares fall more than 10 per cent to $77 in pre-market trading before regaining some ground.
An independent data monitoring committee "suggested there was a low probability the study would achieve its primary endpoint based on results to date," Lilly said in a statement.
The drug, which is meant to treat high-risk atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, displayed "insufficient efficacy" the company said.
The company pointed out that the study was not halted due to safety problems.
"We're obviously disappointed in this outcome, as we hoped that evacetrapib would offer an advance in treatment for people with high-risk cardiovascular disease. We'll be working with investigators to appropriately conclude these trials," David Ricks, Lilly senior vice president and president of Lilly Bio-Medicines said in the company statement. "We remain confident in our pipeline as we prepare for launches in other therapeutic areas with significant unmet needs."
The move marks the end of the road to a class of drugs called CETP inhibitors, which can raise the levels of so-called good cholesterol while lowering the levels of bad cholesterol.
Pfizer pulled the plug on its late-stage study of its CETP inhibitor, torcetrapib, in late 2006, when the drug, despite raising good cholesterol levels as intended, was shown to increase the risk of death and heart problems in a clinical trial.
Roche abandoned further development of its candidate, dalcetrapib, in 2012, after a trial showed the drug was not effective.