Roche dumps taspoglutide as analysts read last rites

Roche is cutting its losses on the once-promising diabetes drug taspoglutide, returning the rights it had licensed from Ipsen after the therapy was torpedoed in late-stage trials by unexpected side effects. The decision leaves Ipsen on the hook for late-stage costs which some analysts estimated at €500 million, a figure that could kill the program.

Taspoglutide is a GLP-1 analogue, a class of drugs that is designed to spur the pancreas to gin insulin as blood sugar levels spike. In trials, the drug worked as hoped for, but also caused widespread side effects that included nausea and vomiting. Last summer Roche said the side effect issue would trigger a 12 to 18 month delay for the program.

Taspo's trouble could be a boon to other new drugs in development for diabetes, including Bydureon, the troubled next-gen therapy to Byetta. For analysts, Roche's decision leaves the experimental drug in limbo, for now.

"The key is whether Ipsen will pursue development alone," noted Luisa Hector, an analyst at Credit Suisse. "The most likely scenario is that they don't but we see little value in the shares if they do."

- here's the story from Bloomberg