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Lilly cancels trials for experimental MS drug

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Eli Lilly and Co. watched $97 million and a whole lot of hope wash down the drain yesterday.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker and a development partner canceled clinical trials on an experimental drug to treat multiple sclerosis when the drug failed to delay progression of the disease in clinical trial patients.

Lilly had partnered with the discoverer of the drug, Canada-based BioMS, since December 2007. Lilly paid BioMS $87 million up front and an additional $10 million when it completed enrollment in a late-stage, Phase 3 clinical trial.
Lilly had high hopes for the drug, dirucotide, because no effective treatment to fight multiple sclerosis exists. Some analysts projected an effective drug could reap $5 billion a year in sales.

Lilly needs new blockbuster drugs because it will lose about $4.7 billion in revenue when its bestseller Zyprexa loses patent protection in late 2011. Other top-selling Lilly drugs will also lose sales to generic copies in the years after Zyprexa does.

Lilly and BioMS made their announcement after the markets closed yesterday. This morning, Lilly’s shares fell 1 percent, to $34.74 apiece.

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