AstraZeneca halts work on lung drug

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AstraZeneca has halted developments on a lung treatment drug

Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca has revealed its second drugs blow in a week as it said it had dropped development of one of its experimental treatments.

The group said its motavizumab drug to prevent serious lung disease in infants had been discontinued, leading to a 445 million US dollar (£287.2 million) accounting charge.

The news follows AstraZeneca’s disappointment last week over a further delay in winning approval from US regulators for its heart medicine Brilinta.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wanted further analysis of research into Brilinta – a blood-thinning pill – before clearing the drug for sale.

Shares slumped as hopes are running high for the treatment, which has already been approved in Europe and is designed to rival blockbuster Plavix, the world’s second biggest selling drug.

But the group’s shares shrugged off the news, with AstraZeneca confirming the fourth quarter financial hit would not impact core earnings.

Its decision to pull development of motavizumab has not come as a surprise to analysts after the drug hit troubles with the FDA in America.

A US medical advisory panel cited concerns last June over potentially serious side effects, while the FDA added to delays by issuing a second so-called complete response letter this August.

However, AstraZeneca confirmed motavizumab remains in development for other serious respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) treatment.

AstraZeneca employs 11,000 staff in the UK and has sites at Macclesfield and Wilmslow in Cheshire, Luton, Loughborough, Edinburgh and Brixham in Devon.

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