Anthera slashes jobs over failed cardiac trial, shifts focus to lupus drug

The other shoe dropped at Anthera Pharmaceuticals late last week, and it hurt. Days after announcing it halted a late-stage Phase III trial of its lead drug over struggles to prove its efficacy, the company disclosed it will eliminate about 45% of its workforce and shift its spending toward other programs.

Reuters reports that the Hayward, CA, company ($ANTH)--which held its IPO barely two years ago--employed 38 people as of Dec. 31.

By slashing jobs, expenses and its cash burn rate now, Anthera wants to live to fight another day. Spending had ramped up as the company faced increased research and development expenses for the Phase III trial, plus a mid-stage trial for a lupus treatment. Anthera reported it had $67.4 million in cash and equivalents on hand as of Dec. 31, 2011, the end of its fiscal 2011 fourth quarter, down from $93.3 million in the previous quarter.

Anthera's share price collapsed after the company announced March 9 that it stopped the Phase III VISTA-16 trial for varespladib, a drug designed to reduce inflammation in patients with cardiovascular disease, after an independent monitoring board concluded the company could not prove efficacy. The company said it took immediate steps to wind down the trial, which launched in June 2010 and was set to recruit more than 6,000 high-risk ACS patients. After halting enrollment and dosing, Anthera will conclude with final patient follow-up visits.

All attention now focuses on blisibimod, for which the company completed enrollment in a Phase II trial at the end of 2011. Anthera is hoping for promising results using the treatment subcutaneously, monthly and weekly for lupus patients, and results are expected by mid-year. Another open-label extension trial for the same drug continues to enroll patients.

- here's the company's announcement
- read the Reuters story