Positive RA study sets stage for lucrative Rigel pact

A second mid-stage study has turned up positive data for Rigel's experimental treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. And execs for the developer say they're closing in on a partnership deal that they hope to ink in the first half of next year--news that helped boost the company's share price by close to 20 percent.

Patients treated with a twice-daily dose as well as a larger once-a-day dose of R788 had a statistically significant response compared to a placebo. And analysts were particularly cheered by the news that the larger dose proved effective.

The analysts were also encouraged to see that the trial helped ease concerns about the drug's cardiovascular safety profile. In the once-a-day arm of the study, 18 percent of patients either had to have blood pressure medications adjusted or prescribed. In the twice-daily arm, 23 percent of the patients had to have blood pressure meds adjusted or prescribed. But in all cases, researchers said, blood pressure was successfully monitored and controlled.

"The blood pressure was successfully reduced in these patients, and their blood pressure was generally well controlled throughout the trial," Rigel said. A late-stage study should be launched in the first half of next year, when the company hopes to seal a partnership deal.

- see Rigel's announcement
- read the report from Dow Jones