British Biotech slumps on news of drug launch delay

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The Independent Online
British Biotech's shares crashed by 41p to 92p yesterday, their lowest level for more than two years, after it announced that the European launch of Zacutex, its acute pancreatitis treatment, would be severely delayed.

European regulators want to wait for the results of a trial of 1,500 patients, designed to determine whether Zacutex can save lives, before deciding whether to sanction the drug. British Biotech was hoping that Zacutex would be approved by this spring. However, the trial is unlikely to be completed before the end of the year.

Dr Keith McCullagh, British Biotech's chief executive said: "This is disappointing for shareholders who were expecting approval. But this share price fall is based on sentiment. The decision doesn't affect the long term prospects of bringing this drug to the market."

Analysts were concerned that the delay eliminates any chance of British Biotech making a profit for the next few years. But they pointed out that the group's real attraction is marimistat, the potential blockbuster cancer drug. British Biotech confirmed that trials of marimistat were still on track and should be completed by early in 1999.

Concerns about delays has caused British Biotech's share price to collapse from a peak of 326.5p.