Lilly Wins Cancer Drug OK

Eli Lilly's ( LLY) Gemzar, which is already used to treat four different types of cancer, received European approval to fight recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer when used in combination with another drug.

Lilly announced that regulatory officials in eight European countries -- Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal and Romania -- approved Gemzar as an ovarian cancer treatment when used in combination with carboplatin, a common chemotherapy treatment. This is the fifth indication for Gemzar, which has been approved in some markets to treat pancreatic cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer, bladder cancer and metatastic breast cancer.

The news failed to spark upside movement in Lilly's shares, which dropped 58 cents, or 0.9%, to $63.11.

"This new Gemzar combination provides women prolonged time without cancer progression, and relief of cancer symptoms. When ovarian cancer progresses, it is frequently associated with significant symptoms that impede daily activities," said Jacobus Pfisterer, principal investigator of the registration trial and professor in the University of Kiel's Department of Gynecology.

About 20,000 European women each year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, one of the more pernicious types to treat, with 90% of those diagnosed experiencing a recurrence after the initial treatment.

European regulators approved Gemzar based on results from an international study by the AGO Ovarian Cancer Study Group, the results of which were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in early June.

The phase III study found that Gemzar used in combination with carboplatin was more effective than carboplatin alone in treating ovarian cancer. The study of 356 patients found that the Gemzar combination prevented the return of the cancer for an average of nearly nine months, 48% longer than those who took carboplatin only.

Gemzar is already a big seller for Lilly, bringing in more than $1 billion in sales a year. During the release of second-quarter earnings on July 22, Lilly announced that sales of Gemzar rose 8% year over year.

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