Cadence Drug Fails to Prevent Hospital Infections; Company Scraps Program

Xconomy San Diego — 

Cadence Pharmaceuticals has taken a couple steps forward in the past few months, and now it took one step back. The San Diego-based biotech company (NASDAQ: CADX) said today the second drug candidate in its pipeline failed in a final-stage clinical trial to help prevent infections from developing in hospitalized patients.

Cadence said it is scrapping development of omiganan pentahydrochloride (Omigard) after the drug failed to show it was better than a standard iodine-based treatment at preventing patients from getting infections at the site of catheter injections. The company said it is restructuring in response to this news and that it “may include a workforce reduction.” The restructuring should trim the company’s operating expenses by $13 million to $15 million this year, the company said.

The company didn’t disclose how much it spend on this trial, called CLIRS, but it certainly couldn’t have been cheap: it enrolled more than 1,800 patients. As CEO Ted Schroeder explained to me back in this December feature, the anti-infection drug was supposed to give Cadence’s sales force a second product to sell in hospitals besides a new intravenous form of the common pain reliever, acetaminophen, which it plans to market as Acetavance. Yet all is not lost. The final-stage trial of that pain-relieving drug was a success, which enabled Cadence to raise another $86.6 million last month. The company had $124 million in cash at the end of February, and expects to finish the year with $81 million to $86 million left in the bank.

“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we are confident that the trial was conducted in a high-quality manner,” Schroeder said in a statement. “We believe that we can best drive both near and long-term value by focusing our resources on our lead product candidate, Acetavance.”

Cadence was excited about the prospects for the anti-infection drug when I spoke with Schroeder last fall. He said at that time it had almost bleach-like killing power, wiping out all sorts of nasty invaders like bacteria, fungi, multi-drug resistant bacteria, yeasts, molds. It kills within minutes, and isn’t absorbed into the body, so it doesn’t provoke an immune reaction, Schroeder said.

The company had 47 full-time employees when it reported figures in February 2008. It had hoped to build a sales force of 150 to 200 employees to market both drugs to hospitals—so it will be interesting to see how much it may scale back since it expects to have just one drug to pitch.

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