Health Care and Eli Lilly and Co. and R&D and Drug discovery and Health Care Businesses and Health Care & Life Sciences and Health Care & Insurance and Pharmaceutical

Lilly depression drug fails to meet goals in studies

December 5, 2013

Eli Lilly and Co. will end development of the depression medicine edivoxetine as an add-on therapy after the drug failed to meet goals in three studies.

A current trial evaluating the experimental compound’s long-term effects will continue, the Indianapolis-based company said in a statement Thursday.

Edivoxetine, a derivative of Lilly's Strattera drug for attention deficit disorder, was in the final of three stages of testing usually required for marketing approval by U.S. regulators.

The end of edivoxetine as a potential add-on therapy is another research setback for Lilly, which has had a cancer treatment, ramucirumab, fail in breast cancer patients, and an experimental compound prove unsuccessful in helping people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Lilly has cut costs and put resources into diabetes therapies as the company prepares for a revenue decline next year when it loses patent protection on antidepressant drug Cymbalta and osteoporosis medicine Evista.

According to Reuters, industry analysts had been hoping edivoxetine, if approved, would reach annual sales in the $200 million range by 2016 and even more in future years.

Edivoxetine had been expected to generate $560 million by 2020, said Seamus Fernandez, an analyst with Leerink Swann & Co., who has an outperform rating on the stock. Sales at that level would have made the drug Lilly’s 10th-biggest product last year.

The decision to end the development as an add-on therapy will result in a pretax charge of $15 million, or 1 cent a share, in the fourth quarter, Lilly said. The company reaffirmed its 2013 forecasts and said it is still plans to return to revenue growth in 2015.

Lilly shares were up 18 cents Thursday morning, to $50.04 each.

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