Pfizer Scraps Cholesterol Fighter, Trims Profit Forecast

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(Reuters) – Pfizer Inc said it halted development of a costly new type of cholesterol fighter because disappointing clinical trial data and an unfavorable market for similar approved drugs bode poorly for its injectable medicine.

The largest U.S. drugmaker trimmed the top end of its 2016 earnings forecast on Tuesday due to costs of scrapping the experimental drug, called bococizumab, which works by blocking a protein called PCSK9.

Pfizer said bococizumab gradually lost its potency in reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol and caused more irritation at the injection site than similar recently approved drugs.

Shares of Pfizer were down 1.3 percent in early trading.

Pfizer was trying to catch up with two other PCSK9 inhibitors approved by U.S. regulators more than a year ago, Amgen Inc’s Repatha and Praluent from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and Sanofi SA.

The drugs can slash LDL cholesterol almost 60 percent, above and beyond reductions achieved with statins, but large ongoing trials have not yet determined whether they can actually cut the incidence of heart attacks. And Repatha and Praluent each have annual sales of only about $100 million, far below initial expectations, in part because insurers have blocked reimbursement due to annual costs of more than $14,000 each.

“The totality of clinical information now available for bococizumab, taken together with the evolving treatment and market landscape for lipid-lowering agents, indicates that bococizumab in not likely to provide value to patients, physicians or shareholders,” Pfizer said in a news release.

Pfizer cut the upper end of its 2016 earnings forecast to $2.43 per share from $2.48 while retaining the lower end at $2.38.

The drugmaker, which in September decided not to split itself into two, said it earned 61 cents per share in the third quarter, excluding special items. The results missed the analysts’ average estimate by 1 cent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Quarterly sales of $13.05 billion matched Wall Street expectations.

One of Pfizer’s most important new drugs is breast cancer treatment Ibrance, which has a list price of about $10,000 a month and blocks two enzymes known as CDK-4 and CDK-6. Its sales of $550 million trailed forecasts of $576 million, and competition looms from similar drugs being developed by Novartis AG and Eli Lilly and Co.

Pfizer raised the lower end of its full-year revenue forecast to $52 billion from $51 billion, while keeping the upper end at $53 billion.

(Additional reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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