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It's become painfully obvious there's very little chance that Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE ) tanezumab will become the blockbuster that Pfizer and investors thought it would.
The pharmaceutical giant announced yesterday that the Food and Drug Administration wants the company to stop clinical trials testing the pain medication in diabetics with nerve pain and patients with chronic lower back pain. The result is a drop in the share price.
As you may recall, the agency put a clinical hold on studies involving patients with osteoarthritis after a "small number" of patients saw their condition get worse after taking tanezumab. The company said then that it was going to try and convince the FDA that the side effect was specific to patients with osteoarthritis.
Apparently, it failed.
Pfizer is allowed to keep testing the drug in areas of high unmet need, like in patients with cancer pain. The drug may be able to gain some traction in those indications since deteriorating joints are of less concern if you're dying of cancer. But for now, it looks like the drug won't be used for big indications like back pain and osteoarthritis.
Perhaps with more data, Pfizer might be able to restart the other programs, but the side effect will always be hanging over the drug. Even if it's approved, tanezumab may have trouble gaining traction in the marketplace.
On the flip side of the coin, a lack of additional competition is anything but painful for some competitors. In addition to drugs like Smith & Nephew's (NYSE: SNN ) Supartz, sanofi-aventis' (NYSE: SNY ) Hyalgan, and Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ ) Orthovisc that treat osteoarthritis, we can add Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY ) Cymbalta, which treats nerve pain, to the list of drugs that are benefiting from tanezumab's misfortune.
Pfizer still has Lyrica, which treats nerve pain, and Celebrex, which patients with osteoarthritis use. But new products are the lifeblood of a pharmaceutical company, and Pfizer could use some to relieve its own pain.
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