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Regeneron Drops as Blindness Drug Shown Similar to Roche’s

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Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. dropped the most in three months after a study failed to differentiate its Eylea medicine from a Roche Holding AG drug used to treat a blindness-causing eye disorder.

Regeneron sank 5.5 percent to $55.06 at 4 p.m. in New York, the biggest one-day decline since Sept. 9. The shares of the Tarrytown, New York-based drugmaker have gained 68 percent this year.

U.S. regulators approved Eylea in November to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, a disorder caused by abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina that’s a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Two studies had showed the drug, injected once every two months after three initial monthly doses, improved eyesight over one year as well as Roche’s Lucentis, dosed monthly.

The results today were from the second year of those studies in which patients were given therapy as needed. Patients on Eylea gained an average of 7.6 letters on an eye chart after 96 weeks, compared with 7.9 for those on Lucentis, Regeneron and partner Bayer AG said in a statement. Those on Eylea had fewer injections in the second year, at 4.2 on average, compared with 4.7 for Lucentis, not enough to significantly differentiate the medicines, said Phil Nadeau of Cowen & Co.

Little Benefit

“The results show that visual acuity gains were maintained over two years, but demonstrate little overall benefit in dosing frequency for Eylea vs. Lucentis when the drugs are dosed as-needed,” New York-based Nadeau wrote in a research note today. “These data will reduce Eylea’s perceived differentiation from Lucentis with respect to both convenience and price.”

The new data imply sales of Eylea may miss analysts’ expectations, Nadeau said. He estimates revenue of $250 million in 2013, lower than the average overall estimate of $270 million, according to his note.

Both treatment arms showed an average loss of 0.8 letters on the eye chart between 52 weeks and 96 weeks, showing that as-needed dosing isn’t as effective as a fixed regimen of Eylea once every two months or Lucentis once monthly, said George Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s chief scientific officer.

“The study picked up the fact that, especially for the patients who needed more intense dosing, you could get by with substantially less injections with Eylea,” Yancopoulos said in a telephone interview. That “supports its longer duration of action.”

Bayer rose 1.9 percent to 48.12 euros. Its shares have declined 13 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meg Tirrell in New York at mtirrell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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