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Monsanto Ends Research on 2 Drugs

January 15, 1999

NEW YORK (AP)_ After a massive research effort, Monsanto killed the development of two drugs designed to prevent heart failure, the company said Friday. The drugs had reached advanced stages of testing.

Monsanto officials determined the drugs _ xemilogiban and orbofiban _ did not reduce the likelihood that patients would die, or would need surgery to restore blood flow to the heart. They stressed the drugs were safe, but simply did not work as planned.

Shares of Monsanto fell $3.25, or 7.7 percent, to close at $39 on the New York Stock Exchange.

While several drugs are available to help patients with acute coronary artery disease, they all must be given intravenously, which usually means patients must be in the hospital. Searle, Monsanto’s pharmaceutical subsidiary based in Skokie, Ill., was trying to develop drugs that could be taken in a pill form.

Monsanto had tested the drugs on more than 20,000 patients worldwide over the last decade, and spent millions on research.

Both drugs had the potential to garner a combined $500 million in annual sales, making them significant sellers but not blockbusters, said Sergio Traversa, an analyst for Mehta Partners.

Analysts said the heart drugs’ failure is a costly blow to the life sciences company, although it has strong prospects in other areas. Last month, Monsanto became the first company to get Food and Drug Administration approval for a new class of painkillers called Cox-2 inhibitors that are aimed at arthritis patients.

Monsanto said they have several other drugs in advanced stages of testing, and they don’t think Friday’s decision will have a big impact on overall sales.

``Our feeling is optimistic, even though we were disappointed about this program,″ said Dr. Holly Kleinert, Searle’s vice president of global cardiovascular franchise.

Xemilofiban was given to patients undergoing balloon angioplasty, a procedure to open up clogged arteries. Orbofiban was tested on patients with angina, or severe chest pains. Both drugs tried to reduce heart attack risk by trying to prevent platelets in blood from clinging together.

Neither drug was expected to be on the market before the end of 2000.

Monsanto had warned Wall Street in November that the human trials were not going well.

``These drugs were already in the intensive care unit,″ said Christine Heuer, analyst for Salomon Smith Barney.

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