Allergan depression drug fails to show progress

Shares fell 4% in late New York trading after poor results

Photograph: Thomas White/Reuters

Allergan shares fell in late trading after saying its fast-acting depression drug failed to show an improvement in symptoms beyond the placebo effect in three key studies.

The drug, rapastinel, didn’t succeed in either the primary or secondary endpoints, which are critical measures needed for approval. The news comes less than a day after Johnson and Johnson’s Spravato nasal spray was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as the first-ever rapid-acting anti-depressant. Allergan is studying its drug in both severe depression and suicidal thinking.

Allergan shares dropped 4 per cent in late trading in New York. They are up 2.9 per cent this year through Wednesday’s close.

"We are deeply disappointed with these results, and they are a vivid reminder that drug development is extremely challenging, especially in mental health," said David Nicholson, head of research and development at Allergan. The drugmaker said it will examine those results and determine this year whether or not to keep studying rapastinel in major depressive disorder as a stand-alone treatment, and in suicidal thinking.


Dublin-headquartered botox-maker Allergan said the drug was well-tolerated. Analysts had been hopeful about rapastinel in part because it didn’t appear to cause patients to have an out-of-body symptom known as disassociation, which did occur in some patients taking JandJ’s rapid-acting antidepressant. – Bloomberg