Cancer drug setback tarnishes AstraZeneca's R&D claims

Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:31am EDT
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* U.S. experts vote against accelerated approval of olaparib

* Research productivity central in defence to Pfizer bid

* AstraZeneca mis-steps may revive prospects of takeover

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) - A vote by U.S. experts against accelerated approval of a new ovarian cancer drug from AstraZeneca has dented its claims of research prowess, which were used to see off a $118 billion bid from Pfizer .

In itself, the setback will have little impact on earnings prospects - but it coincides with heightened scrutiny of the British drugmaker's research and development (R&D) machine and continued talk that Pfizer may return if it stumbles.

Pfizer backed off last month after AstraZeneca trumpeted its drug pipeline and predicted sales would climb 75 percent to $45 billion by 2023 - a highly ambitious target.

But many shareholders are unhappy that the Anglo-Swedish group did not engage with Pfizer and problems with important new drugs may stir discontent.

The U.S. group could revive its plan later this year to forge the world's biggest drugmaker, in a move that would also cut its tax bill through moving its tax base to Britain.   Continued...