Biovail Hit by a Slow-Moving Truck

No one ever said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was fast. More than four years after it started an investigation of drugmaker Biovail (NYSE: BVF  ) , the company has finally settled the allegations.

Yesterday, Biovail said that it agreed to pay a $10 million fine, but didn't admit to any wrongdoing. The charges included an accusation that the company inflated its loss following a trucking accident while the drug was being shipped to its marketing partner, GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK  ) . Biovail allegedly lost a shipment of its antidepressant drug, Wellbutrin XL, worth $10 million to $20 million during the accident. Biovail supposedly inflated the value of drugs lost on the truck in order to cover up a third-quarter 2003 earnings miss.

While the SEC investigation is behind the company now, the saga is still far from over. The SEC is still investigating four officers -- two of whom still work for Biovail. The company and the four individuals also face an investigation by the Ontario Securities Commission, since Biovail is located in Canada.

It looks to me like Biovail got off pretty close to scot-free, and investors seem to agree, with the stock ending up 4.6% higher yesterday.

Unfortunately, Biovail's troubles extend beyond the SEC investigation. Revenue dropped 21% last year, thanks to Wellbutrin XL's generic competition from Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TEVA  ) and Watson Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: WPI  ) . Sales will likely slip further, with another dosage of the drug facing generic competition in May, if not sooner.

Biovail's best chance at a near-term recovery was its Wellbutrin XL replacement, BFF-033, but the FDA depressed its chances of switching patients onto the new formula. An approval decision is expected to come in roughly a month before the aforementioned additional generic competition hits the market. Once patients see the lower copays, it will be extremely difficult to get them to switch to the new drug.

Looking very long-term, Biovail might be passable given its decently stocked pipeline, but it's going to need to get up and start running before any additional trucks head its way.

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