Alimta regimen didn't meet goal in study

Eli Lilly and Co. said Thursday a drug regimen including its Alimta therapy did not improve the survival of lung cancer patients in a late-stage clinical trial.

Lilly said patients who were treated with a combination of Alimta, Avastin, and the chemotherapy drug carboplatin lived for 12.6 months after the start of treatment. Patients who were treated with chemotherapy and Avastin, a drug that is made by Roche, had median survival of 13.4 months. There was not a statistically significant difference between the results of the two regimens.

Lilly said patients who were treated with Alimta did have better progression-free survival, meaning they lived longer before disease progression resumed or death. The patients had been diagnosed with nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer. Alimta is approved to treat that type of cancer as part of a different drug regimen. The patients had not received any treatment before the clinical trial.

In the trial, one group of patients was treated with Alimta, Avastin and carboplatin. They were treated every three weeks, receiving up to four treatment cycles. If their cancer did not progress during that time, they received Alimta and Avastin as a maintenance treatment. The other group of patients was treated with Avastin, carboplatin, and another chemotherapy drug called paclitaxel, followed by maintenance treatment with Avastin.

Alimta is a chemotherapy drug. It is used in combination with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin as a primary treatment for advanced lung cancer and for mesothelioma. The drug is used as a treatment for lung cancer following chemotherapy. Alimta brought in $2.46 billion in revenue in 2011, or about 10 percent of Lily's revenue for the year.

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