Cardiome: Merck Ends Development of Oral Atrial Fibrillation Drug
03/19/2012| 09:23am US/Eastern
Cardiome Pharma Corp. (CRME, COM.T) said it is "extremely disappointed" with Merck & Co.'s (MRK) decision to discontinue the development of an oral formulation of its treatment to prevent the recurrence the heart-rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation.
The Canada-based biopharmaceutical company's shares plunged 42% to $1.12 in early trading.
The U.S. pharmaceutical company cited the regulatory environment and projected development timeline, Cardiome said in a statement.
Merck and other big pharmaceutical companies have been seeking to improve their drug pipelines to replace lost sales as the industry faces a patent cliff.
The oral version of the drug was being evaluated as a potential maintenance therapy. The two companies agreed to a collaboration and licensing agreement for the treatment--called Vernakalant-- in April 2009. Merck acquired North American rights to the intravenous version of Vernakalant last year.
Cardiome said Merck will continue to support the intravenous formulation of the drug--Vernakalant--which is approved to treat the rapid conversion of recent onset atrial fibrillation to sinus rhythm in adults in 37 countries. The drug is marketed as Brinavess in the European Union and Latin America. Merck expects to expand the sales of the product into 30 additional countries this year.
Cardiome said that as a result of the oral program being discontinued it expects to cut its annual cash burn estimate by roughly half to $11 million.
Merck shares were down 83 cents at $37.86.
-By Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2481; Tess.Stynes@dowjones.com