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Allergan’s $560M buyout deal just led to a PhIII debacle as another depression drug goes down to bitter defeat

Allergan’s $560 million deal to buy Naurex has led it straight down a blind alley for depression drugs, where it’s been mugged by a decisive set of failed late-stage data.

Brent Saunders’ biotech $AGN announced after the market closed that rapastinel had flunked the big set of Phase III studies used to test the drug for major depression. Topline results from 3 Phase III trials along with a late-stage test on relapses proved conclusively that the drug had none of its intended effects — either on the primary or secondary endpoints.

While depression has proved one of the toughest fields in biopharma, recently defeating Alkermes $ALKS in its own late-stage showdown, this marks a particularly bitter passage for Allergan, which has had a year full of setbacks that has blown up its share price and blistered the CEO as its critics gained force.

David Nicholson, Allergan

Allergan R&D chief David Nicholson said he was “deeply disappointed” and added: “We will evaluate the impact of these data on the ongoing monotherapy MDD program and suicidality in MDD study. We expect to make a decision on these programs during the course of 2019.”

It’s not looking good. Allergan’s shares were trading near their high of $331 when they bought Naurex. Its shares slid 4% to $132 after the bell rang and the news hit.

Naurex execs had built up hopes for this NMDA drug, asserting its belief that it had found just the right way to modulate the target after years of trial and error. They later spun out Aptinyx $APTX following the deal, then marked their own failure weeks ago, which crippled its stock.


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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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