In early November, Amgen (AMGN 0.66%) broke some encouraging news to shareholders. Phase 2 clinical trial results revealed that the company's drug candidate, known as olpasiran, is very effective in treating patients with elevated lipoprotein(a) levels and a history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).

How potent could the drug be in tackling the condition? And what could this mean in terms of potential sales for the pharma stock? Let's delve into the results of the clinical trial and the ASCVD market to address these questions. 

A potentially life-saving treatment

Lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), is a small protein in the bloodstream that moves cholesterol, fats, and proteins to organs throughout the body. If Lp(a) is at a high enough level within the body, it can be deposited in blood vessels. The definition of elevated Lp(a) can vary, but it's generally classified as at least 125 nanomoles per liter of blood (nmol/L).

Such levels can result in plaque buildup in the walls of the blood vessels, which reduces the blood supply to organs like the heart and brain. Oftentimes, this can lead to serious and potentially fatal health events like heart attacks or strokes.

For context, it is estimated that a staggering 63 million Americans and 1 billion people in the world have high Lp(a) values. And while the only real measures these patients can take now that could be effective are to properly diet and exercise, another treatment option could soon be on the way. 

Amgen enrolled 281 patients with ASCVD and Lp(a) levels above 150 nmol/L in its phase 2 clinical trial. Patients were randomly assigned to one of four doses of olpasiran via injection (10 milligrams every 12 weeks, 75 milligrams every 12 weeks, 225 milligrams every 12 weeks or 24 weeks) or placebo. The patients who received at least 75 mg doses of olpasiran every 12 weeks had a 95% or more reduction in Lp(a) compared to patients receiving placebo at week 36.

Furthermore, 98% of patients on at least 75 mg of olpasiran achieved an Lp(a) level of 125 nmol/L or less at week 36. This could drastically reduce the probability of heart attack and stroke for countless patients around the world. 

A patient at an appointment with their doctor.

Image source: Getty Images.

The sales potential is significant

If approved by regulatory authorities, olpasiran would be the first medicine to specifically treat patients with high Lp(a) concentration and ASCVD. But how much in sales could the drug produce for Amgen?

Jay Olson, an analyst at investment bank Oppenheimer, anticipates that the drug's annual sales could reach $1.5 billion in 2030 for Amgen. Given the massive unmet medical need for high Lp(a) levels and ASCVD, and the lack of medicine on the market specifically for this issue, this is hardly an unreasonable estimate, in my opinion.

A stock upon which income investors can depend

Olpasiran could be a game changer for Amgen and millions of patients. But with dozens of other compounds in its pipeline currently in clinical development, the company is so much more than just this drug. That's why analysts believe that Amgen's non-GAAP (adjusted) diluted earnings per share (EPS) will grow at 7% annually over the next five years. 

The stock is also an excellent pick for income investors. Amgen's 2.7% dividend yield is considerably higher than the S&P 500 index's 1.7% yield. And with the dividend payout ratio projected to clock in at 44% in 2022, the company should have no issue growing its dividend in the future. 

Best of all, income investors can scoop up shares of Amgen at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 16.2. This is just above the S&P 500 pharmaceutical industry average of 14.9, which is arguably a well-supported valuation.