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Vertex Pharmaceuticals to Pause Some Clinical Trials

By Cory Renauer - Mar 27, 2020 at 2:47PM

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With the coronavirus pandemic growing rapidly, the company doesn't see drug studies as the best use of healthcare resources right now.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX -1.02%), the company behind the only drugs that treat the root cause of cystic fibrosis, stated on Friday that its operations are holding up well amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but that it has decided to pause enrollment of certain clinical trials and delay the initiation of others.

The global biotech wasn't specific about exactly which clinical trials it will be halting temporarily, but it was clear in its statement that the coronavirus crisis hasn't impacted the company's ability to supply any of its commercial-stage medicines.

Doctor in personal protective equipment.

Image source: Getty Images.

CEO Jeffrey Leiden said the guidance that management provided in January hasn't changed: Total product revenue is still expected to rise from 2019's $4.2 billion to between $5.1 billion and $5.3 billion in 2020.

The rapid revenue growth that Vertex is producing today is the result of last October's FDA approval of Trikafta, a new treatment regimen for cystic fibrosis patients. Vertex spent $1.8 billion on research and development last year to keep new drugs like Trikafta emerging from its ambitious clinical-stage pipeline, and pausing development will slow down the whole process.

At the end of January, the company was still enrolling groups of cystic fibrosis patients ages 6 to 11 into a phase 3 clinical trial with Trikafta. The study is intended to support an upcoming application to expand the drug's addressable patient population to include the younger age group. Unfortunately, that could be one of the clinical trials Vertex needs to pause while medical centers deal with a massive influx of COVID-19 patients.

Cory Renauer has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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