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UPDATE 1-Ariad suspends sales of blood cancer drug, shares sink

Thursday, 31 Oct 2013 | 8:22 AM ET

(Adds details, background, stock movement)

Oct 31 (Reuters) - Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc said it would suspend sales of its blood cancer drug Iclusig, barely two weeks after it stopped an ongoing trial of the drug due to safety concerns.

The development, which drove down Ariad shares 31 percent before the bell, is a major setback for the company after it won an accelerated approval for the drug from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last December.

An accelerated approval is granted based on promising data from early trials. But the process still requires the company to conduct further studies to prove the drug is as effective as initially thought.

Iclusig is used to treat two rare blood cancers, .

Ariad's troubles started earlier this month when the FDA placed a partial hold on a late-stage trial after a number of patients taking Iclusig experienced blood clots and heart damage.

Ariad later discontinued the trial, raising investor concerns that the drug might be taken off the market.

The decision to suspend sales was taken in response to a request by the FDA, Ariad said in a statement on Thursday.

Ariad said it was actively working with the FDA to resume marketing of the drug.

Ariad shares, which up to Wednesday's close had lost 77 percent of their value since the trial halt was announced on Oct. 9, were down 31 percent at $2.72 in premarket trade on Thursday.

(Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Ted Kerr)

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