Lilly ends 1 trial of rheumatoid arthritis drug

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eli Lilly & Co. said Thursday that it stopped one late-stage trial of its experimental drug tabalumab as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Lilly said it ended the trial because an interim analysis showed the drug was not working. It said the move was not based on safety concerns.

Two other late-stage trials of tabalumab are continuing, as are other, smaller studies. However, Lilly said it won't enroll any new patients in trials of the drug until it completes analysis from other studies in early 2013.

The study was designed to evaluate tabalumab as a treatment for moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis in patients who were not helped by the drug methotrexate. Lilly said it will take a charge of 2 cents per share in the fourth quarter as a result of the stoppage.

Two other companies reported discouraging trial results for a rheumatoid arthritis drug on Thursday. AstraZeneca PLC and Rigel Therapeutics Inc. said their drug fostamatinib did not work as well as Abbott Laboratories Inc.'s Humira in a mid-stage clinical trial. AstraZeneca is running a larger trial of fostamatinib and expects to get results in early 2013.

Rigel's stock plunged 34.6 percent to $5.51 Thursday on the news.

Humira is the leading rheumatoid arthritis drug by sales, bringing in about $9 billion in annual revenue.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a major area of research for drug companies because it is a chronic condition, meaning patients will likely take the drugs regularly for a long time. In November, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new treatment for the disease, Pfizer Inc.'s twice-a-day pill Xeljanz.

Shares of Eli Lilly lost 77 cents to $48.23 on Thursday. AstraZeneca shares fell 2.9 percent to $47.46 and Shares of Abbott Laboratories lost 69 cents to $65.32.


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