Roche shares drop after deaths of patients taking Hemlibra


Roche shares drop after deaths of patients taking Hemlibra

ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss drugmaker Roche’s shares dropped on Wednesday after it told U.S.-based haemophilia advocacy groups that five patients treated with its medicine Hemlibra had died, while maintaining that the therapy was not the cause of the deaths.

The shares slipped 2 percent by 0850 GMT — double the decline in the European healthcare sector — as news of the patient deaths took the shine off a separate Japanese court ruling in Roche’s favour in a patent dispute over Hemlibra with rival drugmaker Shire.

The Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA) and the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) groups issued alerts on Tuesday after Roche’s Genentech unit informed them of the deaths of patients with the genetic disease that stops blood from clotting properly.

“To date, five adults taking Hemlibra have passed away,” Roche said in a statement to Reuters. “For all, the treating physician or investigator’s assessment was that the cause of death was unrelated to Hemlibra.”

One of the deaths was reported in 2017, in which a patient experiencing a bleeding event refused a blood transfusion for religious reasons.

One adult who was taking part in a compassionate-use programme died in 2016, Roche said on Wednesday. Another died in 2017, while two have died this year.

Roche did not give the specific causes of those deaths in its statement.

There have also been several cases of adverse events — thrombotic microangiopathy, or damage to blood vessels in vital organs — that emerged during clinical trials. Roche has blamed these on other medicines used to treat bleeding events.

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