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Here's Why Portola Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Fell 16.6% in August

By Brian Orelli, PhD – Updated Sep 11, 2018 at 2:08PM

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Unimpressive launches of two drugs have investors wondering if the biotech can turn things around.

What happened

Shares of Portola Pharmaceuticals (PTLA) fell 16.6% in August, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The drop came after the biotech posted second-quarter results that disappointed investors. Though the company has launched two drugs this year, sales of Bevyxxa, an anticoagulant that launched in January, came in at just $33,000, and sales of its factor Xa anticoagulant reversal agent, Andexxa, tallied $2.2 million.

So what

Even if you add in payments from collaborators, Portola's total second-quarter revenue amounted to just $4 million, which paled in comparison to expenses, resulting in the company losing $106 million for the quarter.

August 2018 calendar

Image source: Getty Images.

Perhaps under the right leadership, investors would have confidence that Portola could jump-start the launches of Andexxa and Bevyxxa, but the biotech's leadership ranks are in shambles. Its CEO Bill Lis left on Aug. 1, and chief commercial officer Tao Fu plans to leave effective Sept. 21.

In the interim, John Curnutte is acting as interim co-president in addition to his normal duties as executive vice president of research and development, while Mardi Dier is acting as the interim co-president and chief financial officer and will pick up Fu's duties overseeing commercial activities. Those are a lot of roles for two people to cover, especially at a critical junction in the company's progress.

Now what

It's hard to see how Portola can have a quick turnaround here. It'll take a while for new leadership to get in place, assess the situation, and figure out the best course forward.

Longer term, Portola might be a reasonable bet, but investors are likely to be best off waiting for signs of a turnaround before investing; you'll undoubtedly miss some upside, but avoid a further downturn if the turnaround takes years rather than months.

Brian Orelli and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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