What happened

Shares of Portola Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:PTLA) lost over 45% today after the company reported preliminary full-year 2019 operating results. Investors were less than impressed by the company's estimate for Andexxa revenue. 

Portola Pharmaceuticals estimates that the drug product achieved global sales of $111 million for the year and only $28 million in the fourth quarter. The average analyst estimate called for $131.6 million and $43.9 million, respectively, according to numbers compiled by Yahoo! Finance.  

As of 11:28 a.m. EST, the pharma stock had settled to a 42.7% loss.

A pink arrow crashing through the bottom axis of a chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Portola Pharmaceuticals has struggled to gain much market traction with Andexxa, a drug used to stop serious bleeding in people taking anticoagulant medications. Oppenheimer analysts once expected the drug to achieve peak annual sales of $1.25 billion in the United States, but even Oppenheimer analyst Jay Olson noted that the preliminary results provided this week were disappointing.  

The company said that hospitals had reduced their use of Andexxa to control budgets. That could be a troubling sign for the drug, considering it costs between $25,000 and $50,000. 

Now what

Shares of Portola Pharmaceuticals are now trading at their lowest level in over five years. Considering that Andexxa is struggling to compete in the $24 billion market for anticoagulants, investors are right to be at least a little concerned. 

While the business reported an operating loss of $181 million in the first nine months of 2019 (operating loss wasn't included in preliminary results), it exited December with $464 million in cash. Therefore, it should have adequate funding to weather continued losses and attempt to drive adoption of its once-promising product. Execution is another matter.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.