About that 17% bump in Athersys' (ATHX) stock price Thursday: Don't be a sucker.
The Athersys stem-cell therapy MultiStem doesn't help patients recover from stroke any better than a placebo. Negative results from the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study were disclosed last April, after which Athersys' stock price was cut in half.
Athersys used a "global test analysis" encompassing three different stroke-recovery measures -- the modified Rankin Scale (mRS), the NIH Stroke Scale and the Barthel Index -- to assess MultiStem's ability to improve recovery from a stroke after 90 days. On this measure, the study's primary efficacy endpoint, MultiStem was no different than placebo.
Secondarily, Athersys looked at each of the three stroke-recovery measures individually to detect a difference between MultiStem and placebo. The company found no difference.
The data from the Athersys study do not lie, yet Gil Van Bokkelen, the CEO of Athersys, hasn't conceded the failure of his company's only product in clinical trials. He and his team have spent the last 10 months making excuses and spinning statements about "positive" MultiStem stroke results. These statements would never hold up to regulatory scrutiny, but repeated often enough in press releases they take on a veneer of truthiness sufficient to lure retail investors who don't know better.
Last April, Athersys claimed patients treated with MultiStem 24-36 hours after having a stroke recovered better than those treated with a placebo. A promising result? Not really. The analysis -- conducted post-hoc, of course -- required Athersys to erase and ignore the detrimental outcomes reported from 60% of the patients treated with MultiStem.