SmithKline halts trials in arthritis drug setback

SmithKline Beecham said yesterday that late-stage trials of a significant new drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis had to be stopped because of a potentially dangerous effect on the immune system of patients.

Analysts said news of the drug's suspension was a setback as it was one of the group's 10 blockbuster drugs due to be released before the year 2000, with potential peak sales of around pounds 300m. Shares in the group fell 19p to pounds 10.48.

Glaxo Wellcome, which is developing a similar class of drug - known as an anti-CD4 monoclonal antibody - for arthritis gained 6p to pounds 12.52.

Several drug companies are competing fiercely for a share of the multi- billion-dollar anti-arthritis market, where there is currently no effective treatment.

The phase-three trial results showed that 35 of the 103 patients completing the first month of treatment had reduced CD4 cell counts - indicating a weaker immune system - compared with just 10 of the larger phase-two trial.

Mark Brewer from Hoare Govett said: "This could be quite significant. SmithKline has been talking very positively about this drug. We expected it to make around pounds 20m in 2000 and pounds 300m in 2003. Anti-inflammatory and tissue repair is one of SmithKline's key research areas."

Kevin Scotcher from NatWest said that the potential side-effects from the drug were quite serious. "By making the immune system weaker, the drug creates an artificial HIV situation. This drug seems to work, but the side-effects may far outweigh the benefits."

However analysts said they were not changing their views on the stock. Mr Brewer said: "This is a good company with plenty in the pipeline if this one doesn't work."

James Culverwell, analyst at Merrill Lynch, said: "It's disappointing but pretty irrelevant for earnings. This was one of 10 potential blockbuster drugs due for release before 2000, including a follow-up close behind which might have a better profile."

A spokeswoman for SmithKline pointed out that no patients showed side- effects. She said the company was examining the possibility that the problems were due to simple manufacturing and increased dosages associated with scaling up the amount of product needed for larger-scale clinical trials.

"This drug is only on hold. We have not stopped development and we will be reviewing our manufacturing and dosing procedures."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea