Roche shares tumble following trial failures

Swiss drugmaker suffers double setback as it seeks to establish lucrative new treatments


Roche shares fell in early trading on Monday after trial failures added to the Swiss drugmaker’s challenge of replacing patent-expired medicines with lucrative new drugs.

Its skin cancer treatment Zelboraf flopped in a phase III adjuvant melanoma study, the company said on Monday, while similar drugs from Novartis achieved their goals.

Additionally, analysts now doubt prospects for Roche’s eye drug Lampalizumab after it failed a separate trial, jeopardising more than $2 billion (about €1.7 billion) in potential annual sales.

Roche has been counting on new drugs to bolster its business as rivals produce cheaper biosimilar copies of its biggest sellers – the $20 billion-a-year trio of cancer drugs Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan.

But the recent flops, coupled with disappointing results this year on its immunotherapy Tecentriq and its Herceptin-Perjeta combination, underscore the challenge Roche faces.

Roche shares closed down 1.27 per cent at 241.50 Swiss francs (about €212) in trade, while Switzerland’s benchmark SMI rose.