Bear Stearns Cuts Vertex Pharmaceuticals to 'Underweight'

Analyst Akhtar Samad says the discontinuation of a rhumatoid arthritis drug trial eliminates an important near-term potential catalyst

Bear Stearns downgraded Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX ) to underweight from neutral.

Analyst Akhtar Samad says the pipeline has has lost an important near-term potential catalyst. He says the company is discontinuing a trial for Pralnacasan for rhumatoid arthritis, due to liver toxicity in an animal study. Samad says further development will depend on the results of another animal toxicology study, resulting in at least a 12-month delay. He says it's unknown if such effects will be seen in trial data for osteoarthritis, which is expected by year end.

Samad says positive data from the rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis arthritis programs could have signaled potential blockbusters sales for Vertex. He widened the $2.07 2003 loss estimate to a $2.32 loss.

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