Published On: Thu, Jul 27th, 2017

Drugs giant AstraZeneca's major setback as bad trial results wipe £10bn from value

The pharma giant’s shares plunged 788p to 4325p, increasing the pressure on its chief executive, Pascal Soriot, who has been linked with a move to Israeli generic drugs firm Teva.

Soriot had set ambitious sales growth targets for AstraZeneca as part of its successful defence against a £69billion takeover bid by US rival Pfizer three years ago.

It was hoped that a much anticipated study, called Mystic, would back his belief in the company’s drugs pipeline and independent future.

But initial results showed that a combination of two injectable immunotherapies does not stop cancer worsening in patients for any longer than chemotherapy.

Analysts had estimated potential sales could have reached $4billion.

Soriot played down suggestions the failure made AstraZeneca more vulnerable to another bid approach and said there was still a chance the treatment might show a benefit in improving life expectancy when more data is made available next year.

He said: “Despite the outcome of the initial readout, we must be patient as the Mystic trial continues as planned to evaluate overall survival.”

On his own future, he insisted: “I am not a quitter. I’m proud to be the CEO of this company and I look forward to continuing on our journey ahead and continuing to lead the incredible team.

“The only thing I can tell you is I am here today.”

Shore Capital analyst, Tara Raveendran, said: “With positive data critical in underpinning not only Astra’s nascent immuno oncology franchise, but also its broader research and development focused strategy, this is an incredible disappointment.”

The setback came as AstraZeneca posted an 8 per cent drop in second-quarter revenue to just over $5billion following the loss of patent protection on medicines such as cholesterol pill Crestor.

Soriot said: “We remain focused on realising the potential of our pipeline, growing our new launch medicines and bringing our strong science to patients.”

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