What happened

Esperion Therapeutics (ESPR -2.61%) widely missed on its first-quarter results. Those figures were published after market hours Tuesday, so the Wednesday fallout was ugly, with the company's stock closing 21.8% lower.

So what

In Q1 Esperion earned $8 million, over four times the $1.8 million of Q1 2020, fueled by $6.4 million in product revenue (royalty revenue came in at roughly $600,000). On the bottom line, the biotech posted a loss of $90.9 million -- $3.50 per share -- compared to the year-ago deficit of $78.2 million. The company's tally of cash, cash equivalents, and liquid securities fell to $217.9 million from $305 million at the end of the preceding quarter.

A piggy bank with a stethoscope wrapped around it.

Image source: Getty Images.

While at first glance, that top-line growth was robust and encouraging, the average analyst estimate was far higher, at slightly more than $22 million. Esperion also missed significantly on the bottom line, as those prognosticators were collectively estimating only a $2.52 per share loss.

The company proffered selected guidance for full-year 2021. It believes it will book total operating expenses of $320 million to $340 million for the year. It did not provide revenue or profitability forecasts.

Now what

While a biotech's quarterly results can land far from estimates due to the frequent feast-or-famine nature of the business, Esperion's Q1 whiffs were significant. Also, the company's research and development expenses fell during the quarter, while its selling, general, and administrative expenses rose nearly 50% -- not an encouraging dynamic in a research-dependent sector like biotech.