Roche eye drug fails late-stage trial in blow to pipeline
ZURICH: A drug Roche had hoped would prevent loss of vision and become a big seller failed a late-stage trial, leading some analysts to say on Friday it now had no future.
Lampalizumab, which was being trialed to treat a form of age-related macular degeneration, did not reduce changes in lesion area compared to a placebo after a year, Roche said.
The Basel-based company said it had halted further doses until a second phase III study's results can be evaluated, which is likely to be around November.
However, some analysts are already writing off lampalizumab, saying the second trial is not likely to turn out better.
Lampalizumab is among Roche's stable of new medicines it is pushing toward the market in hopes of offsetting the impact of cheaper copies of its biggest sellers - the $20-billion-per-year trio of cancer drugs Herceptin, Avastin, and Rituxan - that are starting to hit the market.
Its failure in tests is the latest in a string of disappointing trial results delivered by Roche drugs this year, taking some of the shine off its portfolio of up-and-coming medicines.
"While this result is disappointing, we will continue to evaluate results...to get a clearer understanding of the data as we await the results of our second phase III study, Chroma, anticipated in November," Sandra Horning, Roche's chief medical officer, said in a statement.
Progressive and irreversible geographic atrophy affects more than 5 million people worldwide, impairing reading, driving, recognizing faces, and activities in a dim or low light.
The drug represents a big opportunity for Roche since there are no approved therapies for this condition.
According to average estimates collected by Reuters, Lampalizumab had been forecast by analysts to hit $1.5 billion in annual sales by 2023, if it wins regulatory approval.
Now, some analysts who had been counting on, even more, are already writing it off, even before the second trial.
"There appears little scope for a positive outcome given the identical design of both trials," said Deutsche Bank's Tim Race, who had estimated peak annual sales exceeding 2 billion francs.
"We now see a limited prospect of the drug reaching the market in the near future and have removed its sales from our forecasts."
Reporting by John Miller; editing by Alexander Smith