November 20, 2017 / 12:24 PM / 2 years ago

Acorda Therapeutics scraps Parkinson's drug after deaths

(Reuters) - Acorda Therapeutics Inc said on Monday it would stop developing its Parkinson’s disease drug, tozadenant, less than a week after the company reported deaths in key studies testing the treatment.

The company’s shares, which have fallen about 40 percent since it reported deaths of five patients, were down 2.5 percent in premarket trading.

It is the latest setback the company has encountered this year — including the loss of exclusivity on its flagship multiple sclerosis drug Ampyra and the U.S. regulator’s refusal to review its other Parkinson’s drug, Inbrija.

Acorda said last week it had found seven cases of sepsis in patients taking tozadenant in mid- and late- stage trials, four of which were associated with agranulocytosis — the absence of white blood cells.

The company, which had been pinning hopes on the success of tozadenant, had intially planned to stop enrolling patients in two long-term safety studies, and increase the frequency of blood cell count monitoring in patients to weekly, in an ongoing late-stage trial.

The drugmaker on Monday said it was not confident that the weekly screening of white blood cell count would be sufficient to ensure patient safety.

Acorda said it still expects to report data from over 90 percent patients that have completed the late-stage study testing the drug, in the first quarter of 2018.

The company, which had acquired tozadenant last year when it bought Biotie Therapies for $363 million, is also developing two other drugs for Parkinson’s disease - Inbrija and SYN-120.

Leerink Research analyst Paul Matteis said the outright discontinuation of tozadenant program is “smart”.

The discontinuation of tozadenant should conserve some cash, which is a key consideration as Acorda will soon refile Inbrija marketing application, Matteis noted.

The company is expecting to resubmit a marketing application for Inbrija in the current quarter.

Reporting by Divya Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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