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Lilly’s Alimta fails to extend survival in lung cancer study

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Eli Lilly and Co. said Thursday that its cancer drug Alimta didn’t extend overall survival when combined with Roche Holding AG’s Avastin in patients with a form of lung tumor.

The combination, which was in the final stage of testing required to get U.S. approval, did delay the progression of tumors, Indianapolis-based Lilly said in a prepared statement. The company will present the full results Friday at a medical meeting in Chicago.

The study was intended to look at whether adding Alimta to Avastin provided an additional benefit for patients with nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer. Lilly is trying to expand use of Alimta, which had $2.5 billion in sales last year.

Alimta is the second late-stage testing setback for Lilly in as many weeks. The drugmaker halted testing on Aug. 29 of a schizophrenia treatment after determining it was unlikely to provide a benefit. The company needs to get new products to the market and expand sales of existing products to offset the potential loss of $7 billion in revenue to generic competition over the next five years.

Lilly shares were up 1.5 percent Thursday afternoon, to $46.49 each.

In the study, called Pointbreak, patients were given either Alimta combined with Avastin and the generic drug carboplatin or a combination of Avastin with the generic paclitaxel. The Alimta patients were then given Alimta plus Avastin as a follow-up therapy while the other group of patients received just Avastin.

 

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