WASHINGTON _ Centocor Inc. saw its stock drop 16 percent onMonday on the news that results from its European clinical trials ofReoPro for certain cardiac patients awaiting angioplasty wereequivocal and that the studies would be continued.

Centocor's stock dropped $2.63 to $13.63 Monday in trading of 5.4million shares.

The stock's decline "reflects the widespread view that ReoPro hasnot met expectations," Matthew Geller, an analyst for Oppenheimer& Co. Inc. told BioWorld.

Jay Silverman, an analyst for Wertheim Schroder & Co. Inc., wasmore optimistic about the results. "News that the clinical trial will becontinued has not derailed those who expect to see an off-label use ofReoPro in the much larger market of patients hospitalized forunstable angina," he told BioWorld.

The European clinical trial, known as CAPTURE, was studying theuse of ReoPro in patients with refractory unstable angina who wereawaiting angioplasty. ReoPro is already approved in the U.S. forhigh-risk patients undergoing angioplasty, about 30 percent of theangioplasty market.

Silverman said he expects Centocor to file an application with theFDA for the more limited use of ReoPro in unstable angina patientsabout to undergo angioplasty based on the CAPTURE study. Hepredicted considerable off-label use in hospitalized angina patientsbecause "ReoPro quiets arteries down so effectively and does so withany invasive procedure."

However, Geller saw the CAPTURE study as an effort by Centocorto bolster the drug's sagging U.S. image. "The European studyinvolved a more limited indication than what ReoPro is currentlymarketed for in the U.S.," Geller said. "Centocor was promoting theCAPTURE results in an effort to build up support for ReoPro, whichis not selling as well as anticipated, and, at $1,350 per treatment isviewed by many physicians as not cost-effective."

Timothy Cost, Centocor's senior vice president for StrategicOperations, disputed Geller's assessment. "We were disappointedthat the Phase III trial would have to be continued but no one hasever said that they believe that ReoPro does not work," Cost toldBioWorld.

"Centocor was on record saying there was a 50/50 chance that thetrial would have to go forward as planned." But there was a "greatdeal of speculation [about the outcome of the clinical trial] last weekand speculation breeds volatility" in the stock market, he said.

A spokeswoman for Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, which marketsand distributes ReoPro, found Geller's assessment inaccurate."ReoPro was on the market for only six weeks in the first quarter of1995 so it's too early to come to any conclusion," said DanielleHalstrom, Lilly's spokeswoman.

Sales may also have been slowed because Lilly officials have to workwith the formulary committees of managed care plans, which oftentake weeks to make a decision about whether to expand the insurer'slist of approved drugs and therapies, she said.

Silverman said it was premature to say the CAPTURE trial did notwork. "Each study arm involves 350 patients, so a handful ofpatients going either way would have easily affected the results."

Centocor, which received approval from the FDA and the EuropeanUnion's Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products lastDecember to market ReoPro, announced in April that its first -quartersales totaled $8 million. Revenues generated from the drug could notbe identified because the drug was shipped in only six weeks of thatquarter. Under Centocor's collaboration with Lilly, the twocompanies split profits equally. n

-- Michele L. Robinson Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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