AstraZeneca drops new diabetes drug

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AstraZeneca, already struggling to fill its truncatedpipeline of new medicines, suffered a fresh setback yesterday when it scrapped development of its diabetes drug Galida. The shares dropped 1.8 per cent on the news and closed down 21p at 2,953p.

Galida had entered the final development stage, Phase III clinical trials, and was one of the Anglo-Swedish group's biggest new drug hopes, with potential sales of $800m (£444m).

Although the decision to drop Galida followed long-standing concerns, the failure of another late-stage drug highlighted AstraZeneca's need to fill its threadbare pipeline. Analysts at Dresdner wrote: "With so few drugs in its pipeline, Astra is very dependent on its strong base business to sustain its growth."

After analysing results from the latest trials, involving 2,245 patients, the company said it believed it was "unlikely to offer patients significant advantage over currently available therapy". It said levels of creatinine - a waste product found in the blood which can indicate kidney problems - were higher in patients on Galida than expected.

Many analysts had scaled back their expectations for Galida after Bristol-Myers Squibb suffered a setback with a similar drug, Pargluva, last year. Both belong to a class of diabetes treatments called dual PPAR agonists, which are designed to lower blood sugar and certain blood fats. Analysts said similar medicines in development at GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Eli Lilly could also fail.

David Brennan, AstraZeneca's chief executive, said the company has struck several deals to buy in drugs in the past few months, though they have been criticised for being expensive and in early stages.