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AstraZeneca abandons experimental bowel disease drug

Delilah Alvarado

Jun 1, 2023

The drugmaker is discontinuing work on brazikumab, an IL-23 inhibitor it regained rights to following AbbVie’s acquisition of Allergan.

AstraZeneca is giving up on an experimental inflammatory disease drug, announcing Thursday the halting of development on a drug called brazikumab.

The drug, which targets a pro-inflammatory protein called IL-23, had been tested as a treatment for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. But after clinical trial delays and review of a changing “competitive landscape,” AstraZeneca said it made the decision to stop further work on the drug.

No safety concerns were reported in testing, AstraZeneca noted in a brief statement.

Inflammatory bowel disease is an attractive market for drug developers, AstraZeneca’s decision notwithstanding. While a number of treatments are available, including some other IL-23 inhibitors, they are not cures and don’t work in every patient. Several large pharmaceutical companies have invested in developing new treatments as a result.

For a while, brazikumab was one of those. Originally developed by Amgen, the drug was bought by AstraZeneca early last decade, only for AstraZeneca to later license rights to Allergan.

But after AbbVie acquired Allergan, the merging companies chose to divest brazikumab to get ahead of possible antitrust concerns to their $63 billion deal. (AbbVie had a similar IL-23 drug that’s now approved as Skyrizi.) Rights then returned to AstraZeneca, although AbbVie remained responsible for some funding.

According to AstraZeneca, brazikumab’s development timeline was then “impacted by delays that could not be mitigated following global events.”

Brazikumab’s discontinuation leaves the pipeline of digestive disease drugs one thinner, but other companies are moving ahead quickly. Eli Lilly is hoping to win U.S. approval of a drug called mirikizumab, although its plans were recently derailed by manufacturing issues. Merck & Co. and Pfizer, meanwhile, recently struck high-profile deals for promising inflammatory bowel disease treatments.


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