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Maker of heart drug for blacks cuts jobs, sales

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Associated Press / January 17, 2008

The maker of the first medication approved for use by a specific racial group is halting marketing of the blacks-only heart drug, laying off most of its staff, and exploring a sale of the company.

Lexington-based NitroMed Inc. says it lacks the cash and marketing muscle to make its 2 1/2-year-old drug, BiDil, a commercial success, although the firm hopes to turn things around after it seeks approval in a couple of years for a once-a-day tablet to replace the current three-times-a-day formulation.

Liana Moussatos, of Pacific Growth Equities, said BiDil has been hampered by concerns about the medication's price compared with a pair of generic drugs that combine BiDil's two main chemical components. Although she said clinical data have shown BiDil offers greater health benefits and easier dosing than the generics, NitroMed has had a hard time winning over doctors and patients as insurers seek to reduce healthcare costs.

NitroMed said it is laying off 70 of 90 employees, with additional cuts possible. NitroMed will suspend sales and marketing for BiDil, its only product, with remaining employees ensuring that existing patients receive BiDil.

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