Eiger to abandon blood pressure drug after trial failure

(Reuters) - Eiger BioPharmaceuticals Inc said on Tuesday it would stop development of its blood pressure drug after it failed in a mid-stage study, sending its shares plunging about 46 percent.

The drug, ubenimex, was being tested to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a type of high blood pressure, and failed its main goal of improving a measure of pulmonary pressure.

Ubenimex also missed the secondary goal of improving patients’ exercise capacity, as measured by a six-minute walk test.

PAH occurs when arteries of the lungs constrict and force the heart to pump harder, potentially leading to heart failure. There are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs to cure the condition, but it can be managed with treatments available in the market.

“We have always recognized that PAH is a complex disease and that this was a translational program,” Chief Executive David Cory said.

The company would now focus on its lead program to treat Hepatitis D, Cory said. It has two drugs in mid-stage development for the condition.

Jefferies analyst Maury Raycroft viewed the company’s other programs such as its hepatitis D as more valuable and “de-risked.”

Eiger said it would continue testing ubenimex for lymphedema, or swelling in the arms and legs due to a blockage.

Data from a mid-stage trial in lymphedema is expected in the second half of the year, the company said.

Cory said the company had cash on hand to last until the middle of 2019. The company had cash and cash equivalents of $32.3 million as of Sept. 30, 2017, according to its third-quarter earnings report.

Eiger’s shares were trading down 45.6 percent at $8.87 in morning trading on Tuesday.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D’Couto and Sriraj Kalluvila