QUICK READ: Amarin lost a legal fight over its heart drug patent and shares tanked. Amarin shares fell sharply after a federal judge ruled that key patents covering its heart drug Vascepa were invalid. Should they have gambled?
Vascepa isn’t an entirely new product. Amarin has been selling the fish-oil-derived product since 2013 to reduce triglyceride levels in patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia, a condition associated with coronary artery disease. Sales of Vascepa lifted the company’s net revenue in the fourth quarter 85% to a record of $143.3 million.
However, when lower-cost generic options enter the market, sales of the original branded drug drop. Drugs may lose as much as 90% of their sales when a generic comes to market, FiercePharma reported. And a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed the example of Pfizer‘s blockbuster Lipitor falling from about $10 billion in revenue to $4 billion after patent expiration.
Amarin went all-in on Vascepa. They hired more salespeople to blitz doctors but then Bothe the court and the pandemic sank their hopes of a potential blockbuster. I wrote many times that I thought this was a losing proposition. Doctors weren’t sold and consumers were buying OTC fish oil products instead.
What’s left? It would be a smart move to try and sell the product OTC. The biggest issue with supplements right now is that there are a lot of bad products out there. Even Costco’s fish oil was found to be deficient in label contents. Going OTC could lead to a lot of dollars although the unit price would be lower than the cost of an Rx.
Will Amarin layoff all the salespeople they hired? It’s hard to say. Right now almost all Pharma salespeople are idle anyway and although some are saying there aren’t going to be any layoffs pay cuts and bonus cuts are probably in order.
Pharma, as I have said many times, is addicted to blockbusters. It’s not enough to sell a drug and make $300-$700 million with a good profit the Street wants growth.
Interestingly the sales of OTC fish oil are up in double digits as is the whole supplement market even with too many unrepeatable products out there.
Developing blockbusters is going to get harder. They have to show significant benefits over generics and formulary decision-makers are under pressure to reduce the number of new drugs for certain health conditions. Now if a Pharma CEO could just tell Wall Street to take a hike and concentrate on good business we might get somewhere.\