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Cancer drug Eribtux fails to be beneficial for stage-three cancer patients

Jennifer Dimaano


Declining sales result

Cancer drug, Eribtux, has failed to produce new results for the second month in a row for cancer patients with advanced stomach tumors in a late stage clinical trial. Erbitux is manufactured by Merck & Co., a German pharmaceutical company, one of the largest in the world.

In May, Merck reported Eribtux showed no benefit for stage-three colon cancer patients—whom had inoperable cancer and hadn’t received prior chemotherapy or radiation.

Florian Lordrick of Hannover Medical School in Germany said, “We are disappointed that the Expand trial did not show a benefit for patients…Patients with advanced gastric cancer currently have few treatment choices and a poor prognosis, and we will continue to investigate other treatment options for these patients in the hope of being able to offer improved outcomes.”

During clinical trials the drug was used in combinations with cisplatin and capecitabine; unfortunately, the results didn’t reap the benefits Merck had hoped for. Eribtux didn’t extend a patients life span without their disease getting worse. The new findings, however, don’t alter use in already approved indications to treat metastic colon cancer, or head and neck cancer.

Annalisa Jenkins, Head of Global Drug Development and Medical for the Merck Serono division said, “Understandably, these results are disappointing for patients with advanced gastric cancer, and as a company, we will continue to invest in oncology research and development to find new treatments for these diseases with high unmet medical need.”

According to Bloomberg reports, Merck shares declined 2.3% to 78.14 euros. Erbitux brought in 855 million euros in sales for Merck last year. The drug is already approved for colorectal cancer along with head and neck tumors. Merck expected growth back in May with Erbitux sales.

Merck applied to sell the drug for lung cancer in the EU; though, chances are “essentially zero,” wrote Martin Voegtli, an analyst at Kepler Capital Markets, in a report.

“This brings us exactly back to the roots of Merck’s current problems: Slow or declining key drug franchises and weak pipeline to offset future sales declines,” Voegtli reported on the declining sales.

According to Merck, 904 patients in 25 countries participated in the study. 

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