Clinical-Trial Flops Hurt AstraZeneca, Lilly, But Bolster Abbott

This is the sort of news that is likely to give the execs at AstraZeneca (AZN) and Eli Lilly (LLY) a case of debilitating pain. Both drug makers, which desperately need some new medicines to compensate for the loss of patents on big sellers, today disclosed setbacks with compounds being developed to combat rheumatoid arthritis.

AstraZeneca reported that a Phase IIb, head-to-head trial of its fostamatinib compound failed to show superiority over Humira, which is marketed by Abbott Laboratories (ABT) and generates some $9 billion in annual revenue. While Humira is an injectable, the AstraZeneca compound is a pill, an advantage Pfizer (PFE) hopes to mine with its recently approved Xeljanz.

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Although the AstraZeneca compound showed mixed results in earlier studies, the drug maker hoped this trial would increase the odds of competing against both Abbott and Pfizer. Now, though, AstraZeneca is likely to have a much harder time convincing payers and physicians that its drug is a worthy alternative.

The results are a sharp reminder for Pascal Soirot, who was recently hired away from Roche to replace David Brennan as ceo (earlier Pharma news), how difficult it will be turn AstraZeneca around. The disappointment also underscores what is likely to be a move toward acquisitions in order to replenish a feeble pipeline.

As for Lilly, the drug maker is stopping one of three late-stage trials of its tabalumab compound due to insufficient efficacy. The decision followed a planned interim futility analysis in which the drug was being tested in patients with moderate-to-severe RA who had an inadequate response to methotrexate, which is a standard treatment.

To read the remainder of this article, go to Pharmalot.

Ed Silverman, a contributing editor of YCharts, is the founder and editor of Pharmalot. He previously reported on the pharmaceutical industry and other business topics for the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, New York Newsday and Investor’s Business Daily. He can be reached at



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