AstraZeneca Won’t Seek Approval for Rigel Arthritis Drug

AstraZeneca Plc (AZN) will take a $140 million charge after deciding not to seek approval of an experimental rheumatoid arthritis treatment that showed mixed results in late-stage studies.

The pretax impairment charge to research and development expenses will occur in the second quarter, London-based AstraZeneca said today in a statement. The U.K. drugmaker will return the rights to the medicine, called fostamatinib, to U.S. partner Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. (RIGL)

Fostamatinib is the latest disappointment for AstraZeneca, which has had setbacks in developing treatments for depression and diabetes. The arthritis drug failed to show a benefit versus Abbott Laboratories (ABT)’ Humira in a mid-stage trial, showed benefits for patients in a late-stage study called Oskira-2 and had mixed results in two late-stage trials dubbed Oskira-1 and Oskira-3.

“The results of the late-stage trials did not measure up to the promising results we saw earlier in development,” Briggs Morrison, executive vice president of AstraZeneca’s global medicines development, said in the statement. “We remain committed to the search for new treatments for patients with rheumatic and inflammatory diseases.”

AstraZeneca rose as much as 0.2 percent to 3,361 pence and was trading at 3,357 pence as of 8:19 a.m. in London. The stock has gained 15 percent this year, valuing the company at 42 billion pounds ($64.4 billion).

The drugmaker has other experimental rheumatoid arthritis medicines in the second of three stages of human testing usually required for regulatory approval, Morrison said. The company reiterated its forecast for core operating costs for the year to show “a slight increase” from 2012 on a constant currency basis.

Rigel fell 2 percent to $4.53 at the close in New York yesterday, giving the South San Francisco, California-based company a market value of about $395 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Hallam in London at khallam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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