Anthera Declines After Lupus Drug Fails to Meet Endpoints

Anthera Pharmaceuticals Inc. declined the most since its March 2010 initial public offering after saying its experimental lupus drug didn’t meet the goal of a clinical test.

Anthera fell 71 percent to 81 cents at the close in New York, the biggest single-day drop since it first offered shares to the public. The results of the mid-stage trial show the medication, known as blisibimod, acted differently on patients depending on the severity and type of their disease, the Hayward, California-based company said yesterday in a statement.

Anthera’s blisibimod, the company’s leading experimental medicine, trails Benlysta from Human Genome Sciences Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, which was approved in the U.S. last year as the first new drug in 52 years for lupus, an autoimmune disease. The company said it will proceed with a Phase 3 trial, the last of three stages needed for regulatory approval, in patients with a more severe form of lupus who responded better in the study released yesterday.

While the study didn’t meet its primary endpoint, “this appears to be due to the lack of efficacy in two low-dose groups,” Paul Truex, founder and chief executive officer, said today during a conference call.

Edward Tenthoff, an analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co. in New York, lowered his target price for the stock today to $2 from $6 a share. He also reduced expectations for blisibimod sales 66 percent to $89 million.

“This is obviously very good news for Benlysta’s sales potential,” said Jose Aymami, a fund manager at Merchbanc in Barcelona who holds shares of Rockville, Maryland-based Human Genome.

This is the second time Anthera’s shares have declined following trial results. In March, the stock plummeted 45 percent after the company canceled a late-stage trial of an experimental heart disease treatment because it didn’t work.

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