Eli Lilly stock rises after release of study data

The Associated Press

Shares of Eli Lilly and Co. topped $50 for the first time in more than four years Monday after the drugmaker released more details behind late-stage studies of its potential Alzheimer's disease treatment.

The Indianapolis company said combined results from two studies of the drug, labeled solanezumab, found 34 percent less mental decline in patients with mild cases of the mind-robbing disease compared to those taking a dummy treatment for 18 months.

Lilly released preliminary results in August. The studies, taken separately, missed their main goals of significantly slowing the disease, but the combined data showed that the drug had some potential.

Doctors say the results do not seem strong enough to win approval of the drug now. But they show researchers are on the right track.

Morningstar analyst Damien Conover said the results were encouraging, and he now thinks the drug has a 30 percent chance of reaching the market. That's up from a 25 percent chance. But the analyst also said Lilly will probably have to conduct another, expensive clinical trial before it submits the drug to regulators for approval.

"I just don't think there's strong enough data here to file on," he said.

Bernstein analyst Dr. Tim Anderson said results the company released Monday likely surpassed most investor expectations, and enthusiasm for the drug will probably climb from "current low levels."

"This clearly supports (Lilly) performing additional clinical studies and moves solanezumab one step closer towards being a real therapy, albeit in a future year," Anderson wrote in a research note, adding that potential regulatory approval may not happen until 2016.

He expects the company to conduct one or two more trials.

A Lilly official said the company will discuss next steps with the Food and Drug Administration.

Lilly shares climbed $2.10, or 4.4 percent, to $50.33 in afternoon trading after rising as high as $50.76 earlier while broader trading indexes fell slightly. The advance means the share price has climbed about 21 percent so far this year.