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Atherogenics Is Feeling the Squeeze

When a clinical trial gives you lemons, try to make lemonade.

That's what Atherogenics (AGIX) did Tuesday with results from a phase III trial of its heart drug AGI-1067. The company downplayed that the study failed to meet its primary endpoint in a spectacular fashion; instead, it focused on a hodgepodge of positive secondary endpoints.

But in this case, Atherogenics' glass of lemonade might be the last one the company squeezes since the phase III trial turned up some potentially serious side effects associated with AGI-1067, most notably liver toxicity, which has meant the end for drugs in the past.

Atherogenics traded in the green most of the day, but concerns over AGI-1067's safety forced the stock lower in the afternoon session. The stock closed down 34 cents, or 9.5%, to $3.24. After hours, shares fell another 4% to $3.11.

The phase III data from the ARISE trial of AGI-1067 was presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

AGI-1067 is a pill designed to break down and reduce the level of fatty plaque deposits in a person's arteries. Clearer arteries are healthier arteries and should lower the risk of cardiovascular illnesses such as heart attacks and strokes and reduce the need for additional surgery to reopen arteries.

The ARISE trial enrolled more than 6,100 patients with heart disease and tested the effect of AGI-1067 vs. placebo on the time to first incidence of a composite of major cardiovascular events, such as cardiovascular death, heart attack, stroke, need for coronary revascularization and unstable angina.

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