Johnson & Johnson scraps phase 3 antibiotic program acquired in $30B Actelion takeover

J&J CEO Alex Gorsky. (J&J)

Johnson & Johnson has halted development of cadazolid in clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. The antibiotic was one of two experimental assets J&J acquired in its $30 billion takeover of Actelion last year.

J&J struck the big-ticket buyout to establish a new business franchise built around Actelion’s stable of pulmonary arterial hypertension drugs. But at the same time, it also picked up rights to two phase 3 assets, cadazolid and multiple sclerosis drug ponesimod. Now, 10 months after closing the deal, one of the assets has fallen by the wayside.

The end of cadazolid in clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea has been in the cards since the week before J&J closed the Actelion takeover in June. Back then, Actelion took some of the shine off the impending deal by revealing a mixed set of phase 3 results on cadazolid.

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Across two trials designed to be identical, cadazolid chalked up one success and one failure, leaving scope for doubt about whether the antibiotic is as effective as vancomycin or not. Some companies may have looked to differences in the locations of trial sites and other factors to find a path forward. But J&J has decided the data mark the end of the road for cadazolid in clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. 

J&J’s statement (PDF) only referred to stopping development in clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, theoretically leaving the door open to its continued progress in other indications. However, as the drug’s entire clinical development program targeted clostridium difficile diarrhea, it is questionable whether it has a future elsewhere.

The setback leaves J&J’s prospects of profiting from the experimental assets resting on ponesimod. J&J is closing in on the publication of phase 3 data on the selective S1P1 modulator.

Meanwhile, the Big Pharma picked up rights to another experimental Actelion asset, aprocitentan, after the deal closed in return for an additional $230 million payment.