Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Why Ionis Pharmaceuticals Crashed Today

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Updated Apr 24, 2018 at 4:39PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Two news events in one day have the biotech seeing red.

What

Shares of Ionis Pharmaceuticals (IONS 5.87%) ended the day down 10.6% after an earnings report from partner Biogen (BIIB 2.28%) started the day on a sour note. Then shares dropped even further midday after data was released for IONIS-HTTRx, a treatment for Huntington's disease. Biogen managed to end the day in the green, up 1.1%.

IONS Price Chart

IONS Price data by YCharts.

So what

Biogen reported $364 million in sales of its spinal muscular atrophy drug Spinraza, which was a whopping 647% higher than the year-ago quarter, when the drug first launched, but the sales were essentially flat compared to the $363 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

The good news is that the number of patients on Spinraza continues to increase, up 16% in the U.S. and 56% elsewhere compared to the fourth quarter of 2017. Sales didn't track with new patient starts because patients who started in previous quarters are getting fewer injections due to the dosing schedule. As that bolus of patients works through the system, sales should start to increase again.

Foot examination of an infant

Image source: Getty Images.

On the IONIS-HTTRx front, Ionis reported data from a phase 1/2 study at the American Academy of Neurology meeting. We already knew the drug was able to knock down mutant huntingtin protein levels, but the new data from a post-hoc analysis shows that reductions in the protein level improves the total motor score and symbol digit modalities score, two measures doctors use to rate the severity of Huntington's disease. Unfortunately two other scores -- the Stroop test and the total functional capacity -- didn't improve, although the total functional capacity is trending in the right direction.

The functional tests are what IONIS-HTTRx will eventually be judged on, but investors should remember that this trial wasn't really set up to measure clinical efficacy, so it's hard to draw a firm conclusion about the lack of a signal on the Stroop test.

Now what

While Spinraza royalties and the potential eventual regulatory approval of IONIS-HTTRx are important for Ionis, the company has an extensive pipeline of drugs, including two under FDA review right now, so investors should evaluate today's news events -- neither of which seem earth-shattering -- in the context of Ionis' overall potential.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Stock Quote
Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
IONS
$38.75 (5.87%) $2.15
Biogen Inc. Stock Quote
Biogen Inc.
BIIB
$202.90 (2.28%) $4.52

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
338%
 
S&P 500 Returns
119%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/18/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.