Merck Depression Candidate Fails

'Substance P' fails to demonstrate clinical efficacy.
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Merck

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shareholders got pasted again Wednesday when the pharmaceuticals giant said one of its most promising drug candidates doesn't work.

The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said it ended a Phase 3 trial on an investigational new product called substance P, or MK-0869, after determining it wasn't effective in treating depression.

"While we had reason to believe that the compound could be effective in the treatment of depression, the results of the phase 3 trials did not demonstrate efficacy," the company said in a release. "Although Merck will not be continuing its clinical development program for MK-0869 in depression, we remain committed to our neuroscience research programs at our facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom."

Substance P was considered one of the shining stars of Merck's drug portfolio and word of its demise follows the release of disappointing earnings and earnings guidance in October and plans for the elimination of 4,400 jobs.

The shares were down 90 cents, or 2%, to $42.97 in the Instinet premarket.