Erbitux looks for narrower lung-cancer use

Germany's Merck KGaA hasn't given up on Erbitux for lung cancer. It's sifting clinical data to identify patient subgroups that benefit most from the treatment, the company's pharma chief told Reuters, in hopes of getting the OK for at least some use against lung cancer.

As you know, Europe's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use rejected Erbitux for lung cancer in July, in spite of promising trial results. Now Merck is lobbying CHMP to reconsider, if not for broad first-line use of the drug, then for particular tumor types or disease stages. "We have huge amounts of clinical data," Elmar Schnee told the news service. "I see potential for Merck."

And besides, Schnee said, Eribitux will end up as a blockuster--lung cancer or no lung cancer. By 2014, when the patent expires, Erbitux will make it to €1 billion, he said. As you know, Erbitux is approved in Europe to treat colorectal cancers and cancers of the head and neck. Merck bought foreign rights to the drug from ImClone, which kept North American rights (and is now owned by Eli Lilly).

- see the Reuters story