Bristol-Myers buries another depression drug after PhII flops

Shares of Albany Molecular Research ($AMRI) took a hit Monday afternoon after it reported that its development partner Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) decided to scuttle an experimental depression therapy that failed to compare favorably with a blockbuster Eli Lilly ($LLY) treatment in midstage trials.

In a document filed with the SEC, AMRI said that BMS-820836--an investigational triple reuptake inhibitor in a pair of midstage studies for treatment-resistant depression--failed the primary endpoints when compared to Eli Lilly's Cymbalta (duloxetine), which loses patent protection later this year.

AMRI Chief Executive Thomas D'Ambra told Reuters that the program was the most advanced therapy in a package of four drugs identified by BMS under a development pact struck back in 2005. BMS had paid out $15.5 million in milestones for the program.

"We expect to have further discussions at some future date to decide about their plans for this compound or any other compound," D'Ambra added. AMRI shares dropped 10% on the news Monday afternoon.

Depression has been a tough target for big drug developers. AstraZeneca ($AZN) experienced some bitter setbacks in the field, which have been so prevalent that GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) R&D chief Moncef Slaoui decided to drop its work several years ago. Drug developers say it's hard to anticipate how well an experimental depression drug will do against an established rival or even a placebo. 

Cymbalta earned $5 billion last year.

- here's the SEC document
- here's the story from Reuters