Targacept Shares Fall After Depression Medicine Misses Goal

Targacept Inc., developer of an experimental depression treatment with AstraZeneca Plc, had a record drop after the companies said the drug failed to meet the main goal of a clinical trial.

Targacept fell 60 percent to $7.61 at the close of trading in New York, for the biggest decline since the company first sold stock to the public in April 2006. The shares are down 71 percent this year.

The drug, TC-5214, was tested as an add-on treatment in the trial in patients with major depressive disorder for whom antidepressants alone didn’t work, London-based AstraZeneca and Targacept said in a statement today. The medicine didn’t meet its primary goal of change on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale after eight weeks of treatment with TC-5214 as compared with placebo, the companies said.

AstraZeneca, seeking a new product to offset lost sales when patent protections on its Seroquel antipsychotic and Crestor cholesterol drugs expire, bought rights to TC-5214 from Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Targacept in December 2009. The agreement widened a collaboration between the companies, which had tried and failed to develop another experimental medicine to treat Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Coin Toss

“It throws the asset into greater uncertainty,” said Josh Schimmer, an analyst with Leerink Swann & Co. in a telephone interview. “But most depression trials tend to be a bit of a coin toss.”

AstraZeneca dropped 3.2 percent to 2,873 pence at the close of trading in London.

Four other studies, all part of a series of trials dubbed Renaissance, are under way, and results are expected in the first half of 2012, the companies said.

Two of the four clinical trials usually done for depression drugs usually have to show efficacy, Schimmer said. While this trial failed, it doesn’t necessarily mean the drug won’t work, he said.


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