Lilly to end development of lupus drug after trial failure

Eli Lilly and Co. will end development of an experimental drug for lupus after the medicine failed to help patients in two late-stage clinical trials.

The treatment, tabalumab, didn’t produce a statistically significant improvement for patients taking either of two doses in the Illuminate 1 study, the Indianapolis-based company said in a statement Thursday.

In another trial, dubbed Illuminate 2, the higher dose did meet the goal of the trial, but collectively the results didn’t meet expectations, Lilly said.

“Generally, investors expected this drug to work, but commercial expectations were quite low,” Mark Schoenebaum, an analyst at ISI Group, said in a note to clients Thursday. Tabalumab was expected to generate about $250 million to $300 million a year in sales in several years, he said.

The drug’s failure removes a potential competitor to GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Benlysta.

Because of the decision, Lilly will take a charge in the third quarter of as much as $75 million pretax, or about 4 to 5 cents a share after tax, the company said.

Lilly is “disappointed that the overall results did not meaningfully improve the condition of the patients in these studies,” said J. Anthony Ware, the company’s senior vice president for product development, Lilly Bio-Medicines.

Lilly shares fell 40 cents, to $64.76 in early trading Thursday

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