Bloomberg News

NPS Pharmaceuticals Shares Plunge on Bowel Drug Study Deaths

November 01, 2011

(Updates with cancer types in second paragraph.)

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., a maker of drugs for rare disease, fell as much as 44 percent after saying three people in a study for its experimental Gattex treatment for short bowel syndrome developed cancer and two died.

NPS dropped 35 percent to $5.06 at 11:19 a.m. New York time, after earlier sinking to $4.35 for the biggest intra-day percentage decline since the stock began trading in May 1994.

The patients who had cancer were at medical centers in Poland. They were the only ones among 566 participants who have received the drug to contract the disease, the Bedminster, New Jersey-based company said in a statement.

“The three cases of cancer have been reviewed by a safety review board comprised of independent experts and at this time no changes in study design or current monitoring of subjects in the trial have been requested,” the company said.

NPS shares had risen 25 percent in the past 12 months before today.

A 48-year-old patient died from cancer of the gastrointestinal tract after taking Gattex for 313 days. Lung cancer developed in a 64-year-old patient and a 74-year-old patient, both of whom had a history of smoking. The younger patient took the drug for 85 days and died from the cancer. The older patient was diagnosed after 535 days.

Nutrition and Fluids

The study found Gattex helped patients reduce their reliance on intravenous fluids and extra nutrition. After a year of treatment, 91 percent of those given the drug needed less nutritional support. Three of the 37 patients receiving the medicine were able to stop supplemental nutrition entirely, according to a study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s annual meeting today.

NPS said it plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the drug by the end of the year.

Short bowel syndrome often develops after surgery to remove a portion of the bowel because of an illness like Crohn’s disease, limiting its ability to absorb nutrients. Patients can suffer from malnutrition, fatigue and weight loss and often need intravenous fluids and other nutritional supplements.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans have the condition and rely on extra nutritional support, the company said. The intravenous feeding increases the risk of infection, blood clots and liver damage, with the danger increasing over time.

--Editors: Chris Staiti, Bruce Rule

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at mcortez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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