Cancer Drug Production Halted: Here's Why

Eli Lilly and Company is forced to halt production on its cancer drug intended to delay worsening symptoms of lymphoma.

The drug, called enzastaurin, failed a Phase III trial by not showing any significant difference from the placebo. But the drug showed no signs of negative effects on the patients it was tried out on, either.

"We are disappointed in the results that we're announcing today," Vice President of Product Development and Medical Affairs for Lilly Oncology Richard Gaynor said in a statement.

Testing results in the first quarter of 2013 caused the company to seek out FDA marketing approval for enzastaurin, one of five other drugs Lilly is known to be pursuing this year.

But this is not the first failure for the company at Phase III. Earlier this year, Lilly saw another failure, following three in 2012.

In February, Lilly tested tabalumab for rheumatoid arthritis patients who saw little to no relief with methotrexate therapy. Despite the failure, the drug is still being tested for a different outcome, helping the fight against systemic lupus erythematosus.

Last year’s failures are said to include drugs that would help with Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Enzastaurin had been tested on more types of cancer than just lymphoma. Throughout the last decade, the drug failed on both lung cancer and breast cancer.

Last year, Lilly made $5 billion on Cymbalta and $1 billion on Evista, both of which it will lose patents on within a year.

The company will lose $30 million due to the halt of development of enzastaurin. Had the drug passed, it was expected to hit annual sales of $200 million.

Lilly is expected to present the data of the failed trial at an “upcoming science meeting.”

The company will continue to move forward with two other cancer drugs that are also in late-stage trials.

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