Lilly faces crushing setback as it's forced to abandon lead heart drug
- Pharma giant Eli Lilly's pipeline lost a star contender on Monday when the company disclosed that it would be discontinuing trials for evacetrapib, a lead CVD drug candidate that the Indianapolis-based pharma believed would eventually garner blockbuster sales.
- Lilly had poured millions into massive phase 3 trials for the drug and enrolled more than 12,000 people in safety and efficacy studies. But the independent committee overlooking the trials informed the company that "there was a low probability the study would achieve its primary endpoint based on results to date" and that the candidate demonstrated "insufficient efficacy."
- Evacetrapib is a CETP inhibitor that's meant to boost HDL (aka "good cholesterol") in order to guard against heart attacks and strokes. Analysts had expected the drug to achieve anywhere from $1 billion to nearly $4 billion in sales if approved.
It's been a topsy-turvy October for Eli Lilly.
Last week, BioPharma Dive took an inside look into the company's plans to expand its New York City presence and commit to immuno-oncology. It also won a breakthrough designation for a breast cancer medication that's meant to take on the likes of Pfizer's Ibrance (palbocicilib)—and on Monday, the company also announced that it would expand its partnership with China's Innovent Biologics in a $1 billion meant to bolster cancer immunotherapy efforts.
But Lilly shares are now down almost 8% in the wake of the evacetrapib setback.
"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," said David Ricks, Lilly senior vice president and president of Lilly Bio-Medicines in a statement. "We remain confident in our pipeline as we prepare for launches in other therapeutic areas with significant unmet needs."
Now, the company's pipeline prospects largely rest on the shoulders of cancer immunotherapies that will try to elbow their way into a crowded field and the unlikely return of solanezumab, an Alzheimer's medication that Lilly had nearly abondoned three years ago but decided to stick with after a bit of data mining revealed glints of promise.