What happened

Shares of Puma Biotechnology, Inc. (NASDAQ:PBYI), a biotechnology company in the middle of its first new drug launch, fell 37.3% in November, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Sales of Nerlynx appear to be leveling off before getting anywhere near pre-launch expectations.

So what

Around one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes, which is why investors were expecting blockbuster sales for a drug proven to prevent the disease from recurring after initial treatments. Results of a huge study showed 90.8% of patients treated for a year with Nerlynx were still disease-free after five years of follow-up, compared to 86.7% of the group given a placebo.

Person in a business suit and tie drawing a downward-sloping chart

Image source: Getty Images.

While the difference was good enough to convince the Food and Drug Administration to grant an approval to Nerlynx last year, Puma's third-quarter report suggests the improvement isn't enough to drive blockbuster sales. During the three months ended September, Nerlynx sales came in at $52.6 million, which was just $1.8 million more than Puma recorded during the previous quarter.

Now what

While Nerlynx has disappointed investors so far, at least Puma probably won't need to ask investors for another handout to fund its launch. Expenses associated with sales, administration, research, and development were 22% lower in the third quarter than during the second quarter.

Puma Biotechnology narrowed its operating loss to just $11 million during the third quarter, and ended the period with $128 million in cash and marketable securities. Nerlynx was approved in Europe in September and its launch is still getting started on the other side of the Atlantic. Nerlynx might not deliver the blockbuster sales that Puma investors expected, but they can look forward to operations that will probably quit bleeding money in 2019.

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