AstraZeneca takes €107m charge after scrapping disappointing arthritis pill
DRUG giant AstraZeneca has decided to end development of fostamatinib, a rheumatoid arthritis pill that was one of its few late-stage experimental medicines, following disappointing overall results.
The decision is a blow to AstraZeneca's already sparse new-drug pipeline and a bigger setback for Rigel Pharmaceuticals , the US biotech firm that struck a licensing deal for the medicine with Britain's second-biggest drugmaker in 2010.
For AstraZeneca, the move will result in a $140m (€107m) impairment charge relating to intangible assets, to be taken in the second quarter, although this will not affect its financial guidance for 2013, which is based on "core" earnings.
Scrapping fostamatinib is not a complete surprise, since a series of clinical trials over the past six months have been disappointing, suggesting that the new pill would struggle to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Announcing the final batch of late-stage Phase III clinical trial results for the drug on Tuesday, AstraZeneca said it would now return rights to the compound to South San Francisco, California-based Rigel.
Rigel's fortunes are closely tied to the medicine, since it does not yet have any drugs on the market.
Fostamatinib was seen as a potential competitor to injectable drugs like AbbVie's Humira - the world's best-selling prescription medicine - and a new pill from Pfizer called Xeljanz in a $20 billion-plus market.
Briggs Morrison, AstraZeneca's global head of medicines development, said the results of late-stage trials did not measure up to the promising results seen earlier in development.
"We remain committed to the search for new treatments for patients with rheumatic and inflammatory diseases with Phase II compounds in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and Phase III compounds in gout and psoriasis," he added.