Drugmaker Eli Lilly stops developing potential lupus treatment after late-stage studies

Associated Press

Eli Lilly and Co. will cease work on a treatment for lupus after research showed that its drug didn't lead to significant improvement in patients when compared with standard treatments for the debilitating immune system disorder.

The Indianapolis drugmaker said Thursday that combined results from two, late-stage studies fell short of statistical significance, and the decision to stop studying tabalumab was not based on safety concerns. Late-stage studies are generally the last and most expensive phase of testing before the developer asks regulators to approve a drug.

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Lupus is a little-understood and potentially fatal ailment in which the body attacks its own tissue and organs.

Early last year, Lilly stopped testing the same drug as a possible rheumatoid arthritis treatment. The drugmaker is still studying tabalumab as a possible treatment for the bone marrow cancer multiple myeloma.

Lilly, which makes the antidepressant Cymbalta and several diabetes treatments, said the decision to stop studying the potential lupus treatment will lead to a third-quarter charge of as much as $75 million before taxes.

The drugmaker's stock fell 31 cents to $64.77 in Thursday afternoon trading, while broader indexes also dropped slightly. But the stock is still up 27 percent so far this year.