Shares in US group Ventrus BioSciences nosedived yesterday as investors were left distraught by news of the late-stage failure of its haemorrhoid drug iferanserin.

The group's stock plummeted almost 60% after it emerged that it has dumped development of the drug after it failed to hit primary and secondary targets in a Phase III clinical trial.

The main goal of the 603 patient study was the elimination of bleeding from day seven through day 14 of treatment, with the elimination of itching and pain as secondary endpoints. 

However, iferanserin failed to demonstrate any improvement over placebo, and so the company has decided that its money would be better spent elsewhere in its R&D pipeline.

Resources would be better allocated toward the planned completion of the VEN 307 (diltiazem cream) development program in anal fissures and the beginning of further development of VEN 308 (topical phenylephrine) in fecal incontinence, the firm said.

"The outcome of our Phase III study comes as a surprise and a disappointment, particularly given the strong evidence of activity in our Phase II randomized study," commented Russell Ellison, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ventrus.

He remained upbeat though, stressing that, "despite this setback, we remain excited about our pipeline and, with a strong cash position, plan to refocus our efforts".