UPDATE 2-Aerie's eye drug succeeds in trial, shares hit life high

Wed Jun 25, 2014 12:18pm EDT

(Adds details, analyst comments, shares)

By Penumudi Amrutha

June 25 (Reuters) - Drug developer Aerie Pharmaceuticals Inc said its experimental glaucoma drug, which is a combination of two drugs, was found more effective than the two individual drugs in a mid-stage trial, sending the company's shares to a life high.

Aerie's shares rose as much as 41 percent to a life high of $29.71 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday. The stock was one of the top percentage gainers on the exchange.

The strong data suggests that the combination drug, Roclatan, could be more effective than any other glaucoma drug, making the eye drop a potential blockbuster, analysts said.

The once-daily eye drop combines Aerie's other experimental glaucoma drug, Rhopressa, with an approved drug called latanoprost.

Patients treated with Roclatan experienced a significantly greater reduction in fluid pressure inside the eye than those treated with either latanoprost or Rhopressa.

"There is a 70 to 80 percent chance Roclatan gets approved; it uses a new kind of mechanism and has showed great results in terms of efficacy," RBC Capital Markets analyst Adnan Butt said.

Glaucoma, which is one of the leading causes of blindness, is a condition where the optic nerve is damaged, usually due to increased eye pressure.

About 2.7 million people in the United States over the age of 40 have glaucoma, according to Glaucoma Research Foundation.

The drug completes Aerie's range of drugs for treating eye pressure, with Roclatan aimed at patients with a severe and progressive form of the condition and Rhopressa meant for patients with a less severe form, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co analyst Annabel Samimy told Reuters.

Aerie said it could take up to a year to collect enough data to begin a late-stage trial for Roclatan. The company is also preparing to start a late-stage trial for Rhopressa in early July.

Aerie's shares were up 27.6 percent at $26.86 in noon trading. (Editing by Don Sebastian and Kirti Pandey)

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