AbbVie Suspends Five Clinical Trials of Leukemia Therapy After Patient Deaths

Published: Feb 27, 2013

AbbVie Inc., the drug company that split off from Abbott Laboratories at the start of the year, suspended five studies on its experimental leukemia and lymphoma medicine after two patient deaths. The patients died from tumor lysis syndrome, said Tracy Sorrentino, a spokeswoman for North Chicago, Illinois-based AbbVie. The complication stems from the rapid destruction of malignant cells after treatment that can trigger acute kidney failure. It occurs most often with large tumors such as those found in leukemia and lymphoma patients, according to the National Institutes of Health. AbbVie is looking for new products to diversify beyond its best-selling arthritis drug Humira. ABT-199 is one of the company’s most-promising new compounds and was slated to start the final round of testing usually required for U.S. regulatory approval this year. “We have every expectation that these trials will come off the partial clinical hold and we’ll be able to initiate Phase 3 trials in 2013 as planned,” she said. “ABT-199 is a highly- potent agent and can result in the tumors reducing really quickly,” she said. “We are working to refine the dose.” After the complication was discovered, AbbVie and its partner, Roche Holding AG, suspended the dose-escalation portion of the studies to determine the amount of drug that is safest and most effective, Sorrentino said. The risk stems from the drug’s potency and can be managed if the dose is carefully controlled, she said.

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