Alkermes Surge by a Record 47% on Depression Pill Trial Success

  • ‘Significant’ improvement of depression scores versus placebo
  • Cerecor, also developing a depression drug, rose 19%

Alkermes Plc surged as much as 47 percent, the most ever, after the drugmaker said a pill for depression hit its main goal in a final-stage study.

The drug, ALKS 5461, significantly improved depression scores among patients compared with those on placebo, Alkermes said Thursday in a statement after markets closed. The shares were up 30 percent to $56.35 at 10:33 a.m. in New York, adding almost $2 billion to the company’s market value.

Cerecor Inc., which is also developing a therapy for depression, jumped 19 percent to $4.

After the gain, Alkermes’ stock still remains about 7 percent below its level on Jan. 20, the last day of trading before the drugmaker announced that two other final-stage studies of the depression drug had failed to show a significant improvement compared to placebo.

The new study looked at 407 patients for whom other drugs against depression hadn’t worked sufficiently, and randomly assigned them to take ALKS 5461 or a placebo. Alkermes didn’t give details about the extent of the difference between the therapy and placebo.

“Third time the charm,” Paul Matteis, an analyst at Leerink Partners who rates the stock the equivalent of buy, said in a note to clients. He gave the company a 50 percent change of getting ALKS 5461 approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration without running another trial. “This comes as a surprise.”

The drug is meant to be taken in addition to other anti-depressants. It’s a combination of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat pain and opioid addiction, and a chemical called samidorphan, which is designed to prevent the therapy from being addictive. On a call with investors, Chief Medical Officer Elliot Ehrich said patients coming off ALKS 5461 had not shown withdrawal symptoms. Ehrich said the company is preparing to meet with the FDA to discuss when it can file for approval.

About 16 million adults had at least one depressive episode in the U.S. last year, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most people with major depressive disorder don’t respond well enough to their first antidepressant treatment, according to Alkermes.

— With assistance by Caroline Chen

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