AstraZeneca's Fasenra Fails in Trial of Severe Lung Disease

(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc’s Fasenra failed to meet its goal in a late-stage trial of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a blow for the company as it tries to expand the market for the drug.

Fasenra, already approved for treatment of severe asthma, was tested in about 2,000 patients to see whether it would reduce exacerbations of COPD, according to Cambridge, England-based Astra. The company is still conducting another trial in about the same number of patients, according to a statement Friday.

The year-long Astra trial was aimed at determining whether adding Fasenra to the treatment of patients with moderate to severe COPD would help control episodes of worsening disease. The drug is designed to modify harmful responses in the lungs by removing immune cells called eosinophils, and would have been the first biologic drug to treat COPD, which affects about 384 million people and is predicted to be the No. 3 killer worldwide by 2020, according to Astra.

There is “significant unmet need among patients whose disease remains uncontrolled despite treatment with existing inhaled therapies” for COPD, said Sean Bohen, Astra’s chief medical officer, in a statement. The company will decide how to proceed with the drug after the results of the second trial, he said.

The drug’s launch in asthma is exceeding expectations, said Matthew Kent, an Astra spokesman, without providing details. The shares fell less than 1 percent to 5,239 pence as of 9:30 a.m. in London, and have gained 5.5 percent this year before Friday.

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