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Friday 21st of November 2008
April 6, 2005

Serono halts trials


by Brian Turner
Serono halts trials

Serono, Europe’s largest biotechnology company, has been forced to halt trials of two drugs it has in development.

The news sent its stocks down 4.8 percent by midmorning Wednesday.

It stopped the trials on the recommendation of two data and safety boards.

The first trial, for the drug onercept, meant to treat psoriasis, was halted after two patients were diagnosed with sepsis during Phase 3 trials last year. One patient subsequently died.

While sepsis is a recognized risk for patients being treated for psoriasis, the risks in this case were determined to be greater than the potential benefits.

The other halted trial was for the drug Canvaxin in its use as a treatment for Stage IV melanoma.

Data showed that the drug had no greater effect on the cancer than did a placebo.

Trials of the drug, however, will continue in its use as a treatment for Stage III melanoma, a less advanced stage of skin cancer.

Despite these setbacks, analysts say that while this news might affect investor sentiments, profit estimates for Serono will remain the same on the strength of another of the company’s psoriasis drugs.

There still remains the hope that Canvaxin will still prove out as a successful treatment for Stage III melanoma, and the fact that a rival company was forced in February to withdraw it’s own Multiple Sclerosis drug from the market, giving Serono’s MS drug, Rebif, a larger potential market.

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