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Bellus Health is reporting Monday negative results from a mid-stage clinical trial of its experimental pill for chronic cough — a disappointing outcome that is forcing the Canadian drug maker to rethink and prolong development plans.

Merck, Bayer, and Shionogi are all working on similar drugs to treat chronic cough, so they benefit from Bellus’ setback. In February, Merck reported positive results from a Phase 3 clinical trial.


In the Phase 2 study, the highest dose of the Bellus drug, called BLU-5937, reduced the frequency of cough by 17% compared to placebo — a difference that was not statistically significant and therefore failed to achieve the study’s main goal. Three lower doses of the drug performed even worse.

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