ZURICH, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche said on Tuesday its experimental schizophrenia drug failed to significantly reduce the "negative symptoms" of the disorder in two-late stage studies.
Results of two Phase III trials found adding bitopertin to antipsychotic therapy did not significantly reduce the negative symptoms compared with placebo. A third late-stage study is ongoing.
Roughly 26 million people are affected by schizophrenia worldwide, but current treatment options for the disorder's negative symptoms - which include social withdrawal, lack of motivation and reduced emotional reactivity - are limited.
"These results are disappointing for people with negative symptoms because more effective treatments are needed for these debilitating effects of schizophrenia," said Sandra Horning, Roche's chief medical officer and global head of product development.
The world's largest maker of cancer drugs is looking to branch out beyond its core expertise and has identified neuroscience as a major focus area. It is running late-stage studies in Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.
Roche is conducting three additional Phase III studies investigating bitopertin for sub-optimally controlled symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. The drugmaker said it would await the data from these studies before deciding on the next steps for the drug.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Potter)