Teva finally dumps laquinimod, ending failure-riddled saga

Teva
Teva stuck with the drug long after most independent observers had given up hope. (Wikimedia Commons)

Teva has finally given up on laquinimod. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor activator was once hailed as a blockbuster heir to Copaxone but suffered a string of late-phase failures that dragged down Teva and its partner Active Biotech.

After picking up the rights to laquinimod in 2004, Teva put the asset through three phase 3 trials in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, plus midphase studies in primary progressive multiple sclerosis and Huntington's disease. Aspects of the resulting data hinted at the efficacy of laquinimod, but the drug kept falling short against primary endpoints. The most recent failure occurred in July.

Teva stuck with the drug long after most independent observers had given up hope of it ever getting to market, let alone becoming a big product. But the failure of the phase 2 Huntington's disease trial over the summer has persuaded Teva to wash its hands of the drug.

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The decision means Sweden’s Active Biotech has regained the full rights to laquinimod and all the data Teva generated in trying to bring it to market. Teva’s abandonment of the candidate further diminishes the prospects of an already-tarnished program, but it may not mark the end of the saga. Active Biotech thinks some of the secondary endpoint data suggests laquinimod has a future. 

“The pronounced effect of laquinimod on brain atrophy demonstrated in both [relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis] and [Huntington's disease] patients supports our belief in the potential of laquinimod as a possible treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, a disease area where the medical need remains high,” Active Biotech CEO Helén Tuvesson said in a statement. “Therefore, we will assess all opportunities for a continuation of the development of laquinimod.”

Active Biotech regains the rights to laquinimod having been diminished by the drug’s failures. The biotech’s share price is down 97% on the highs it hit late in 2010, and it lacks the cash to take the drug far without investment or outside support. 

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