November 26, 2018 / 7:26 AM / 15 days ago

Vectura drops severe asthma treatment after poor trial results

(Reuters) - Britain’s Vectura Group Plc will stop developing its treatment for severe uncontrolled asthma after a trial showed it failed to have a significant impact on the condition.

The announcement is the latest setback for the loss-making drugmaker, which has faced a rocky two years since its $620 million acquisition of rival SkyePharma, which led to lower royalties and higher costs than expected.

Vectura’s shares, down nearly 40 percent this year, fell more than 11 percent to 69.5 pence by 1100 GMT on Monday.

The failure will widen Vectura’s loss before tax by 40 million pounds ($51.3 million) in the current financial year.

Analysts were expecting a pretax loss of 69.8 million pounds, according to Refinitiv data. The company made a pretax loss of 102 million pounds last year.

“This result is clearly disappointing for the group, but its not one which is completely surprising. I’ve described this study as one with a challenging endpoint,” Chief Executive Officer James Ward-Lilley told analysts on a call.

Vectura’s VR475 treatment delivers asthma medication budesonide through its nebuliser inhaler.

Study results showed the treatment failed to reduce the number of asthma attacks in patients to a level that was significantly different from those treated with a placebo.

“We expect today’s news ... will inevitably lead to further questions regarding Vectura’s ability to deliver value and positive returns from its R&D investments, as well as the outlook for longer term growth”, analysts at Peel Hunt said.

The company said signals it had seen in the trial gave it confidence that its other nebulised projects, including VR647 for pediatric asthma, were worth pursuing.

The VR475 study included 713 patients from 7 European countries, Ukraine and the Philippines.

In the European Union 45 percent of all asthmatic patients have severe uncontrolled asthma, with healthcare costs accounting for over 50 percent of overall asthma-related costs.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar/Keith Weir

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