Pfizer Suspends Trial After It Leads to Joint Replacement; Shares Drop

Pfizer suspended clinical trials of its pain drug tanezumab in patients with osteoarthritisPfizer (PFE) announced late Wednesday the suspension of clinical trials of its pain drug tanezumab in patients with osteoarthritis, a joint condition. The halt comes after several of the patients taking the experimental drug experienced worsening of the osteoarthritis, leading to joint replacement. The suspension came at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The world's biggest pharmaceutical company said the clinical hold is effective immediately and includes suspending the recruitment of new patients and the dosing of existing patients in the osteoarthritis program.

In addition, participants in studies of tanezumab for pain in other conditions and who also happened to have osteoarthritis were also taken off the drug. But to date, severe reactions haven't been observed in non-osteoarthritis patient populations taking tanezumab, Pfizer said.

Trials for Pain in Other Conditions to Be Assessed

The FDA has also asked that the New York-based company to present its assessment this week of the potential implications of this "adverse event" in the company's other programs that study the drug. Pfizer is conducting trials of tanezumab in patients with cancer pain; interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder disorder; chronic low back pain; and diabetic peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage.

Pfizer had high hopes for the drug, highlighting its potential when the company discussed its drug pipeline with analysts. News of the suspension of the clinical trials, and the consequent delay in releasing the drug to the market, prompted Credit Suisse to lower the target price for Pfizer stock from $22 to $21, which is still more than 40% higher than the current share price.

Pfizer shares dropped 2.8% to $14.46 and have lost 21% of their value year-to-date.

Several in the media recently questioned the reason Pfizer stock has remained so depressed and out of favor with Wall Street. Certainly, Pfizer is about to lose patent protection on its biggest selling drug -- the cholesterol treatment Lipitor -- and has yet to come up with other drugs that would replace revenue lost to generic competition. Yet some felt that fundamentally the company is worth more than its current price levels. But this recent development perhaps puts more weight in Pfizer's bear camp.

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