Does Lilly's Byetta extend life?

Yesterday, we reported a little pooh-poohing of a potential deal between Eli Lilly and Byetta partner Amylin, based on the diabetes drug's flat sales of late. Well, some news today could change that sales trend. (Whether it changes people's minds about a buyout we'll leave to you to speculate.) In a big trial of type 2 diabetes treatments, Byetta patients had a 75 percent lower chance of dying compared with those who took any other drug.

Why haven't Lilly and Amylin trumpeted those numbers? No one is yet sure whether the survival benefit is real or statistical chance, the New York Times reports. The 825 patients--of 10,000 participants--who took Byetta during that trial were likelier to start out healthier, for one thing. The numbers came as a surprise even to the drugmakers. "[M]y jaw just dropped," said Dr. James Malone, global medical director on Byetta for Lilly.

To prove the numbers, the two companies would have to run a head-to-head trial, which would be expensive and time-consuming. And with a reformulated version in the works, they may want to run that sort of study with the new version.

- read the NYT story

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