Eli Lilly to stop study of heart disease drug

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Shares of Eli Lilly plunged Monday after the drugmaker said it would stop developing a heart disease treatment that had advanced deep into clinical testing.

The Indianapolis company said researchers cited a lack of effectiveness, not safety concerns, in recommending an end to late-stage research on the drug, evacetrapib.

Evacetrapib is part of a once-promising class of drugs known as CETP inhibitors that aimed to reduce major cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes by raising levels of HDL, or so-called good cholesterol, in patients while also removing bad cholesterol.

A Lilly spokesman said studies showed that the drug did improve cholesterol levels, but researchers didn't see a significant reduction in cardiovascular events.

Late-stage research is the final and most expensive phase of research before a drugmaker seeks approval from regulators to sell a product. Lilly said it will absorb a fourth-quarter charge of up to $90 million before taxes for its decision to stop developing the drug.

Lilly's decision comes three years after Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG halted testing on a similar treatment. The best-known drug in the class of CETP inhibitors was Pfizer Inc.'s torcetrapib, which was scrapped due to safety problems.

Shares of Eli Lilly and Co. dropped more than 8 percent, or $6.96, to $79.22 in morning trading, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell slightly.

Lilly shares had jumped to nearly $90 a few weeks ago, after research showed that a drug Lilly is studying with German partner Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals sharply reduced the chance of dying in diabetic patients at high risk of heart complications.

Published: Tue, Oct 13, 2015