Esperion's combo therapy lowers cholesterol level by 35 percent, shares surge

(Reuters) - Esperion Therapeutics Inc said on Monday a combination of its drug, bempedoic acid, taken along with Merck’s Zetia lowered cholesterol level by 35 percent in a late-stage study, sending the company’s shares up as much as 11 percent.

The 12-week study evaluated the efficacy and safety of the bempedoic acid-ezetimibe combination pill compared with bempedoic acid, ezetimibe or placebo in 382 high-risk patients.

It showed a 35 percent reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), or bad cholesterol, for the combination pill compared to a 3 percent for placebo, 24 percent for Zetia or ezetimibe, and 20 percent for bempedoic acid.

“This combo pill fills a market need that is there ... results are really compelling,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Mayleben said in a conference call.

Esperion said the combo therapy could be the first-ever treatment capable of reducing LDL-C levels as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The company plans to submit U.S. marketing application for the treatment by the first quarter of 2019.

The combo pill also met secondary goals, including lowering of total cholesterol compared with placebo, ezetimibe and bempedoic acid taken separately.

In March, the company said patients taking bempedoic acid in addition to Amgen’s Repatha saw a reduction in LDL-C levels by 30 percent in another study.

Repatha belongs to a new class of medicines called PCSK9 inhibitors, which block a protein that stops low-density lipoprotein from being removed from the blood.

Esperion’s once-daily combo oral pill will “resonate better” with high-risk patients than PCSK9s as the company’s therapy is expected to be cheaper, Chief Commercial Officer Mark Glickman said in a conference call.

The company’s shares were up 4.5 percent to $51.31 in early trading on Monday. The stock had fallen 25 percent this year through Friday’s close.

Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur