Amgen's Long Shot Comes Up Short

The bad news is Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) and Takeda Pharmaceutical's motesanib didn't extend overall survival in lung cancer patients when combined with Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY  ) Taxol and carboplatin.

The good news is investors weren't really expecting anything different. Amgen's shares are actually up slightly today.

The companies didn't release survival times, but based on the hazard ratio of 0.9, we can conclude that the patients taking motesanib lived longer than the control group. Unfortunately the difference wasn't statistically significant.

Other than that one data point, we're left on our own to figure out Amgen and Takeda's next move. Dr. Roger Perlmutter, executive vice president of research and development at Amgen said, "We are disappointed with the results from this trial, but look forward to further analysis of the data which may ultimately help inform future research in this area."

But that's just drugmaker speak for, "@#%&, it didn't work."

I'd guess Amgen and Takeda will follow in Novartis' (NYSE: NVS  ) footsteps and drop development of motesanib in lung cancer. The drug has already been shown to have deleterious side effects in patients with squamous non-small cell lung cancer. Now that patients with the non-squamous type have failed, there doesn't seem to be much reason to continue even if there was a trend in the right direction.

And it's not like lung cancer is the easiest indication to go after. Besides Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE  ) crizotinib, which only works in patients with a certain mutation, Celgene's (Nasdaq: CELG  ) Abraxane is the only drug recently that's shown an effect in lung cancer patients. And Abraxane is a derivative of Taxol, so it wasn't much of a stretch to expect that it would work.

With plenty of new drugs on the market, Amgen can afford a failure every now and then -- especially from ones that were long shots anyway.

The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2011 is far from a long shot. Click here to grab the free report.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Novartis is a Motley Fool Global Gains choice. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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