Germany’s Altana saw its share price slump some 16% after it was revealed that the firm and partner Pfizer had “mutually agreed” to terminate development of Daxas (roflumilast), a phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

No specific reason was given for the rupture but there was recently speculation, denied by Altana, that the European market launch of Daxas could face a three-year delay [[08/06/05b]]. Also, there has been a delay in filing in the USA due to difficulties in recruiting patients for large clinical trials [[29/10/04c]].

The news is a great blow for Altana and analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein immediately downgraded the firm’s stock from "hold" to "sell", with the broker noting that Daxas is Altana’s most important drug in development and the rest of the company’s pipeline is looking pretty weak.

The rights to Daxas have been returned to Altana, though there were no details given of any financial settlement. Relations between the two companies would appear to still be cordial and the Bad Homburg-based firm said that Pfizer “will cooperate in order to facilitate a smooth transition.”

Altana reiterated its commitment to the drug and its high hopes for an early European approval and also noted that its co-promotion deal with Pfizer for the overactive bladder medication Detrol (tolterodine) will continue under its current terms until the end of 2006. Pfizer limited itself to saying that “the search for new and innovative medicines for the treatment of COPD and asthma remains a priority for Pfizer and we will continue to invest in other research activities in these areas.”

- Meantime, Pfizer also pulled the plug on capravirine, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor being developed with Shionogi for patients with HIV/AIDS who have failed to respond to currently available antiretroviral therapies.

The US behemoth said it based the decision on results of two Phase IIb studies, which failed to show a statistically-significant difference between standard triple-drug HIV therapies and the same therapy combined with capravirine. Rights to the compound will be returned to the Japanese firm.