Today’s Top Biotech Stories: Aegerion, GW, and Ariad Pharmaceuticals

Aegerion, GW, and Ariad Pharmaceuticals could loom large in health care headlines this Wednesday morning. Here’s why.

May 7, 2014 at 9:10AM

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Let's take a closer look at three stocks -- Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AEGR), GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH), and Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARIA) -- which could make waves across the health care sector this Wednesday morning.

Aegerion slumps on weak earnings and lowered guidance
Aegerion Pharmaceuticals is down more than 16% today in pre-market trading after reporting lackluster revenue growth and a wider-than-expected quarterly loss.

For its first quarter, Aegerion reported net product sales of $27 million -- a big jump from the $1.2 million it reported in the prior year quarter which nonetheless missed analyst estimates of $33.6 million. Aegerion posted a net loss of $0.54 per share, an improvement from the loss of $0.64 per share a year earlier but missing the consensus estimate for a narrower loss of $0.35 per share. On a non-GAAP basis, Aegerion reported a loss of $0.25 per share. The company also lowered its full year revenue guidance from a range between $190 million to $210 million to a range between $180 million and $200 million.

Aegerion's only marketed product, Juxtapid, is a treatment for homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH), an extremely rare lipid disorder which only affects one in a million people. It is one of the most expensive drugs in the world, costing nearly $300,000 per patient per year.

Aegerion started tumbling last November, after CEO Marc Beer received an FDA warning letter regarding inappropriate comments on CNBC which appeared to recommend off-label marketing of Juxtapid. In January, the DOJ subpoenaed the company regarding its marketing practices. Meanwhile, Aegerion faces competition from Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) and Isis Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:IONS) Kynamro, which costs considerably less at $176,000 per year. Shares of Aegerion have fallen more than 40% over the past six months.

GW Pharmaceuticals reports earnings and an update on operations
GW Pharmaceuticals, best known for its cannabis-based medications, just reported its earnings for the first half of fiscal 2014 and provided an update on its operations.

The company reported revenue of £15 million ($25 million) in the first half of fiscal 2014, compared to £12.9 million in the first half of fiscal 2013. GW reported a net loss of £8 million ($13.3 million), compared to a profit of £0.1 million in the first half of 2013. The company finished the first half of 2014 with cash and equivalents of £95.6 million ($159.4 million), up from £38.1 million in September 2013. Shares of GW fell more than 3% in pre-market trading following the announcement.

The majority of GW's revenue comes from its only approved product, Sativex, a cannabis-based mouth spray for spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). Sativex is not approved in the U.S., but has been approved in 25 other countries in the EU and has launched in 12. Sativex is currently in ongoing phase 3 trials in the U.S. for the MS indication, and in phase 3 trials in the U.S. and EU for an additional cancer pain indication.

GW also announced that the FDA authorized an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for Epidiolex, a cannabinoid treatment for Dravet syndrome, a form of pediatric epilepsy. That puts the drug on track to start a phase 2/3 trial in the second half of 2014. In addition to Sativex and Epidiolex, GW has several other mid-stage pipeline candidate treatments for type 2 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and schizophrenia.

Ariad reports first quarter earnings
Last but not least, Ariad just reported its first quarter earnings. Ariad reported that its revenue, which comes from net sales of its blood disorder drug Iclusig and licensing agreements, came in at $11.8 million.

Sales of Iclusig climbed 25% year-over-year to $8 million -- an encouraging sign of the recovery of the drug, which was temporarily suspended last November due to safety concerns. The FDA allowed sales and marketing of the drug to resume in December with a modified warning label.

The drama caused shares of Ariad to fall nearly 60% over the past 12 months, although the stock has bounced back more than 200% over the past six months. Ariad stated that it was in the middle of reintroducing Iclusig to U.S. markets and would continue its European launch throughout the year.

Ariad's net loss also narrowed to $0.27 per share, or $49.8 million, up from a loss of $0.36 per share, or $64.7 million, in the prior year quarter. Research and development expenses also decreased 31% to $12.7 million due to lower clinical trial and manufacturing costs.

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Leo Sun has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Isis Pharmaceuticals. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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