When It Rains Risk, It Pours


Within a 12-hour period five biopharma companies revealed negative drug news that is sending their stocks lower -- in the case of Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Cell Genesys, much lower.

After the closing bell Tuesday, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer announced a bloodclot drug they're working on didn't perform as well as they'd hoped it would in a clinical trial. As a result, they also said they won't be filing for Food and Drug Administration approval of the product next year, which had been their previous timeline.

Forty-five minutes later, AMLN and Eli Lilly announced that four more Byetta patients died. Byetta is their twice-a-day injectable diabetes drug that lowers blood sugar and weight. That's on top of the two pancreatitis-related deaths the FDA disclosed last week. The companies say in this hyper-sensitive drug safety environment, they felt compelled to report the four other fatalities -- even though they don't think they had anything to do with the drug.

And then this morning, Cell Genesys announced it was stopping a late-stage study of its prostate cancer treatment because it saw more deaths in the group of patients getting the drug.

As one biotech executive so aptly put it at a recent investment conference, "It's a risky business." Given all the news within the last 12 hours or so, one could argue that's an understatement.

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