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Abbott showcases pharma pipeline ahead of AbbVie separation

Says its pharmaceutical business, which will be separated and renamed later this year, has 20 phase II or III projects

Abbott has delivered a solid set of first quarter results, with a 5 per cent increase in revenues to $9.5bn, and says prospects for its pharmaceutical business are bright with 20 projects in phase II or III development.

Arthritis treatment Humira (adalimumab) was the star performer, with sales up 17 per cent to $1.93bn, ahead of analysts' expectations and likely due to favourable pricing, and this helped the company to a double-digit rise in earnings per share.

Abbott took the opportunity afforded by the results announcement to showcase its pipeline, which is under scrutiny given the firm's decision to spin-out its research-based pharmaceutical business into a new company called AbbVie later this year.

The company is keen to show that AbbVie will have long-term growth potential given that patent protection for Humira starts to expire in 2016 and rival drugs are coming through the pipelines of other pharma companies.

Abbott's most promising programme is in hepatitis C, where a portfolio of new antiviral drugs with different modes of action that have shown potent effects in phase II trials and are tipped as having blockbuster sales potential.

The firm is in a race with Gilead Sciences, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Boehringer Ingelheim in the oral hepatitis C treatment segment, but appears to have something of a lead with a chance of getting the first non-interferon-based regimen into phase III testing.

Abbott also highlighted two drugs for chronic kidney disease - bardoxolone and atrasentan - which are in phase II and phase IIb, respectively, and it also has high hopes for its oncology portfolio. This is currently led by elotuzumab for multiple myeloma in phase III, and its central nervous system projects.

Just ahead of the results, Abbott reported positive phase III results with its levodopa-carbidopa intestinal gel (LCIG) product for Parkinson's disease which suggest the product may reduce some of the troublesome side effects of standard therapy for the condition.

Prostate cancer biomarker licensing deal

Meanwhile, Abbott has licensed several biomarkers from Stanford University in the US which could form the basis of a new diagnostic test to differentiate aggressive from non-aggressive prostate cancer.

The test could be used to determine which patients should be treated and which can be managed with “active surveillance”.

James Brooks, associate professor and acting chair, Department of Urology, Stanford University Medical Center, said some men have been found to have slow-growing cancers and could safely opt for no treatment and avoid life-altering side effects.

"Developing a clinically validated prostate cancer prognostic assay with actionable data represents the 'holy grail' in improving disease management."

"It clearly would fulfill an unmet medical need to help men with prostate cancer know which treatment options will yield the best outcomes for their long-term survival and best quality of life," he said.

19th April 2012


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