Pfizer Drops Development of Two Late-Stage Drugs

Tue, 02/24/2009 - 3:42am
By LINDA A. JOHNSON AP Business Writer TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Pfizer Inc. said Tuesday it is ending development of two medicines that had been in final human testing in order to shift funding to other experimental drugs with more potential. The world's biggest drugmaker said it decided to halt further testing of compounds to treat fibromyalgia and generalized anxiety disorder after reviewing its existing and experimental primary-care drugs. "They're not products that really meet an unmet medical need," spokeswoman Kristen Neese told The Associated Press. "We'd rather devote our resources to other areas." Neither compound had been seen as a likely blockbuster because other drugs to treat those conditions already are on the market. However, drug companies generally spend hundreds of millions of dollars by the time a drug reaches final human testing, and Pfizer needs every new drug it can get. Its cholesterol treatment Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug with nearly $13 billion in global annual sales — more than one-the fourth of Pfizer's total revenues — is expected to lose patent protection in November 2011. To address that problem, New York-based Pfizer plans to diversify its product and research portfolios by buying rival drugmaker Wyeth, which is a leader in vaccines, consumer health products and biotech drugs, along with traditional pills. Wyeth, of Madison, N.J., also has state-of-the-art technology for manufacturing complex biotech drugs, which are produced in living cells. The cash, debt and stock deal, originally valued at $68 billion, has dropped somewhat in value as the price of Pfizer shares have fallen since the deal was announced on Jan. 16. Pfizer's compound for fibromyalgia, a poorly understood pain-and-fatigue ailment, was known by the chemical name esreboxetine. The treatment for the psychiatric condition generalized anxiety disorder was known only by the designation PD 332,334. Pfizer said it reviewed results from the first late-stage study for PD 332,334 and all the data for esreboxetine, "along with current market dynamics," before making the decision. "While confident in the safety of these compounds, we don't believe that they provide significant benefit over other therapies" on the market, Pedro Lichtinger, president and general manager of Pfizer's Primary Care Business Unit said in a statement. Pfizer's own Lyrica, originally approved for epileptic seizures, became the first drug approved for fibromyalgia in the U.S. in June 2007. Then rival Eli Lilly & Co.'s Cymbalta, an antidepressant, won U.S. approval as a treatment for fibromyalgia in June 2008, and Forest Laboratories Inc. and Cypress Bioscience Inc. received approval for their drug Savella in January. Cymbalta was approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder two years ago. Other psychiatric drugs, while not specifically approved for generalized anxiety disorder, also are used to treat it. Pfizer said it will continue to pursue approval for using Lyrica to treat generalized anxiety disorder, a chronic condition with symptoms including persistent anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension that impairs daily function. "Our goal is to use our resources efficiently and effectively to continue to deliver medical innovations," Lichtinger said. To boost its research productivity, Pfizer last fall narrowed the number of diseases on which it is doing new research and set up units focused on a single therapy area. Each has its own chief scientific officer, who decides which experimental compounds advance into risky and expensive human testing. Pfizer said it is notifying all doctors and other staff participating in patient testing of the two canceled drugs to determine "the best course of action for their patients."

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