NPS shares halted as FDA panel reviews bowel drug

NEW YORK -- Trading of NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc. shares was halted Tuesday as a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel began discussing NPS' experimental bowel drug Gattex.

NPS will discuss Gattex with the FDA's Gastrointestinal Drugs Advisory Committee. The panel will discuss NPS' marketing application for Gattex and will evaluate safety and effectiveness data from clinical trials.

NPS has asked the agency to approve Gattex as a treatment for short bowel syndrome, a potentially life-threatening chronic condition that prevents patients from absorbing nutrients from food. People with short bowel syndrome are prone to malnutrition, diarrhea and dehydration. A positive recommendation from the committee would improve the company's chances of getting marketing approval for Gattex and an unfavorable review would hurt those chances.

The FDA is scheduled to make a decision on Gattex by Dec. 30. It does not have to follow its advisory panels' recommendations but usually does.

NPS Pharmaceuticals shares trade on the Nasdaq Global Market. The stock jumped 19 percent Friday after the panel's briefing documents were posted online, as Wall Street felt the questions and assessment of Gattex were favorable. During Friday's session the shares peaked at $11.22, their highest price in more than six years. The stock slipped 6.2 percent Monday to close at $10.19.