October 2, 2014 / 3:30 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Eli Lilly stops development of lupus drug; XTL shares soar

(Adds Lupus Foundation of America statement; updates shares)

Oct 2 (Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co said it would stop the development of its drug to treat the autoimmune disorder lupus, after it was found to be not effective enough in late-stage trials.

While Lilly’s shares hardly budged on the news, the ADRs of Israel-based XTL Biopharmaceuticals Inc, which is developing its own lupus treatment, were up 87 percent at $3.09 in early afternoon trading.

Lupus is a condition in which the body’s immune system starts attacking healthy tissues, causing inflammation, pain and, in extreme cases, death.

About 1.5 million people in the United States are estimated to suffer from lupus, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease has been particularly challenging for drugmakers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta in March 2011, making it the first lupus drug to be approved in 50 years.

Lilly tested the drug, tabalumab, in two studies, but it failed to meet the primary goal in one of the trials.

“Collectively, the data from these studies did not meet expectations for efficacy in the context of existing treatments,” the company said, adding that the decision to stop developing the drug had nothing to do with safety concerns.

The decision to drop tabalumab will result in a charge of about 4-5 cents per share in the third quarter, Lilly said.

The Lupus Foundation of America said there was enough evidence in Lilly’s data to merit further examination.

“The results underscore that the pathway this drug targets (B cells) is known to be critical in the development of lupus,” the non-profit organization said in a statement.

B cells are white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight off infections. They are an important component of abnormal immune responses that can be used to identify each autoimmune disease.

XTL said last month that it would start mid-stage studies of its lupus drug in mid 2015 and planned to meet FDA officials at the end of this year to discuss trial design.

Shares of Anthera Pharmaceuticals Inc, which has completed mid-stage studies of its potential lupus treatment, were down 6.7 percent at $1.68 on the Nasdaq.

Lilly shares were down almost 1 percent at $64.50 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Vidya L Nathan in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti Pandey and Simon Jennings)

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