Gensia Pharmaceuticals Inc. has started Phase II trials of itscardiovascular drug Arasine as a treatment to preventcardiovascular complications in patients who undergo majornon-cardiac surgery, the company said Monday.

The San Diego company (NASDAQ:GNSA) plans to begin PhaseIII trials in the United States, Canada and Western Europe inthe last half of this year, according to David Hale, chairman,president and chief executive officer.

Up to 3 million people are at risk annually in the United Statesfrom cardiovascular complications related to major non-cardiacprocedures such as vascular or abdominal surgery or hipreplacements, said Martha Hough, vice president for planningand administration.

"No cardio-protective therapies are currently approved for thistype of indication, and none that we are aware of are in clinicaltesting," she said. "There is potentially a $500 millionworldwide market opportunity for a class of drugs that couldaddress that medical need."

Gensia plans to complete in April its Phase III trials of Arasineas a treatment for several cardiovascular events associatedwith coronary bypass surgery and file for marketing approvalsfor this indication in the United States, Europe and Canadabetween September and December.

Gensia shares fell $1.50 to $39.50 on Monday. -- Kris Herbst.

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