Pfizer Shutting Lights on ILLUMINATE Study

December 4, 2006

Low HDL is a well known independent risk factor for atherosclerotic disease.  As a result, there have been several attempts to develop medications to raise HDL.  Specific targets include the inhibition of cholesteryl ester transfer protein, which plays an essential role in HDL metabolism by facilitating the transfer of cholesterol esters from HDL cholesterol to apolipoprotein B-containing lipoproteins.

Pfizer created just that drug.  Known as Torcetrapib, it was seen as a promising therapeutic to increase HDL and potentially use in combination with Lipitor. Drug execs were hopeful that Torcetrapib would be another money maker for Pfizer especially in light of the fact that they will lose their patent on Lipitor in 2010.  But in a recent phase 3 clinical trial, known as the Investigation of Lipid Level Management to Understand its IMpact IN ATherosclerotic Events (ILLUMINATE), it seemed to increase blood pressure; there also appeared to be a larger number of deaths in the drug combination arm.  So the decision was made to halt the trial dashing the high hopes that investigators had around the country for the drug.  Ultimately, the loss of Torcetrapib will likely amount to millions of dollars in lost revenue as well as cost many their jobs. 




New York Times Article

NEJM original article on Torcetrapib


Smerd, R. Pfizer Shutting Lights on Illuminate Study, NYU Clinical Correlations Vol 3 #5 December 4, 2006.


One comment on “Pfizer Shutting Lights on ILLUMINATE Study

  • Avatar of Ira Breite
    Ira Breite on

    Pfizer actually will have to take an almost one billion dollar loss on development costs for torcertrapib alone. The drug was the only drug in Pfizer’s pipeline that had the clearly has the potential for multibillion dollar revenues and Lipitor ($8 billion) has a limited shelf life and significant generic competition from simvastatin (ask all of those NYC employees who were pretty much forced to switch). Even before this announcement, Pfizer cut their sales force by 20% in recent weeks.

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