Genentech Inc. stock fell $2.75 to $46.375 last week as debate on the GUSTO trial of Activase tPA was rekindled, including word that a congressional subcommittee has become involved.

Critics of the drug have contended that the trial, which compared accelerated dosing of Activase with streptokinase, wasn't conducted properly and that the 1 percent absolute benefit provided by tPA doesn't justify its $2,200 cost compared to the $200 cost of SK.

The GUSTO investigators and critics published a point and counterpoint discussion on the relative merits of the trial and the two drugs in the May 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, together with an independent commentary. (See sidebar)

A political note was injected into the debate by word that the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations, headed by Michigan Democrat John Dingell, will look at the conduct of the trial and the cost of the drug. Committee staffers declined to discuss the investigation, but said that Congress has the right to launch a fact-finding effort on any subject of interest. Such an investigation may or may not lead to an action such as a hearing or legislation.

GNE not contacted

GNE spokesperson Jim Weiss said that neither the company nor any investigator involved with GUSTO has been contacted by the committee. "We heard the news so we contacted them and said can we help you," he said. "They said there isn't any need for that at the moment and that was that."