Acorda writes off $363M drug, axing PhIII Parkinson’s drug in the wake of 5 patient deaths

Five days after Acorda said it was suspending enrollment after tracking the deaths of 5 patients from sepsis in a late-stage study of the Parkinson’s drug tozadenant, the deeply troubled biotech says it’s decided to scrap the drug altogether as too dangerous to keep in the clinic.

According to Acorda, researchers tracked new information about its number two drug in the pipeline that convinced the company to discontinue the work on a drug that cost them $363 million in an all-cash buyout.

Ron Cohen

“Patient safety is our top priority,” said Acorda CEO Ron Cohen in a statement. Acorda’s shares $ACOR were down by 5% more in early-stage trading. The stock is down 40% in 5 days.

Safety may be Acorda’s top priority, but drug development is critical to their very survival. And that is proving difficult as the company continues to stumble over development setbacks. Acorda recently had to refile for an approval on its lead experimental therapy after the agency initially refused to accept an incomplete application.

Acorda’s cash cow, Ampyra, faces the patent guillotine next summer, if the courts uphold a decision that would open the door to generic competition. Without another drug ready to take its place with the marketing team, Acorda’s revenue could start to swoon. So at a time the biotech needs to impress everyone with its ability to execute — as it did with a drug it purchased late in the clinic to reduce the chances of failure — Acorda continues to rack up snafus.

Cohen already triggered a deep and painful reorganization earlier in the year to cut the cash burn, placing part of its pipeline up for auction in order to garner some added cash.

Acorda swooped in to buy Finland’s Biotie in early 2016 for $363 million in cash to bag the Phase III Parkinson’s drug and add a badly needed late-stage drug to the pipeline. Tozadenant is an oral adenosine A2a receptor antagonist that’s registered proof of concept data for reducing “off” times among Parkinson’s patients taking the standard levodopa/carbidopa remedy.

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