An experimental drug for severe sepsis from AstraZeneca and BTG failed to help patients in a crucial mid-stage clinical trial and its development will now be halted, BTG said.
Sepsis occurs when the body’s immune system sets off a chain reaction and over-reacts to an infection, damaging vital organs.
The news is a blow for both companies’ drug pipelines, although the development of CytoFab, or AZD9773, was always viewed by analysts as risky.
There are big potential rewards for a successful medicine to treat sepsis, which affects around 3 million people a year worldwide and has a 30 per cent mortality rate. The drug industry, however, is littered with past failures in the area.
Deutsche Bank analyst Richard Parkes said CytoFab, if it had worked, might have generated 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) in annual sales, with BTG getting a royalty of around 25 per cent -but he had only given it a one in five chance of success.
CytoFab is the second high-risk drug to flunk tests this week, following the failure of a keenly anticipated Alzheimer’s treatment from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Elan. BTG said it expected to take a charge of approximately 28 million pounds ($43.82 million) in the current financial year related to the ending of the drug’s development, following the failure of the Phase IIb study.
Nomura Code analyst Gary Waanders, who cut his recommendation BTG to “sell” from “neutral”, said he was not hugely surprised by CytoFab’s failure, which reduced the fair value of BTG shares to 240-260 pence.
The setback is a bigger blow for BTG than its larger partner AstraZeneca and BTG shares initially tumbled more than 10 per cent before paring losses to stand to 2.3 per cent lower at 330 pence. AstraZeneca was also off 2.3 per cent at 3,013p as its shares traded without a 58.1p interim dividend.
Louise Makin, BTG’s chief executive, said the results were “obviously disappointing”, but added that the company’s core business and trading continued on track.
For AstraZeneca, the news is a further blow to confidence in its research capabilities, following a series of earlier setbacks that had already narrowed its chances of finding new medicines to replace those going off patent.