Earlier this month, the popular news show 60 Minutes ran a segment on antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bacteria such as methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) are a worrisome medical problem as the infections can be quite serious and difficult to treat. Clearly, new antibiotic drugs are needed to combat strains that have developed resistance to all known drugs.
According to the 60 Minutes piece, the only companies that can address this problem are the large pharmaceutical firms, such as Pfizer
One of these companies is Cubist Pharmaceuticals
Cubist reported first-quarter earnings last week and sales of Cubicin came in at $6.3 million. That may not seem like much but it was the drug's first full quarter on the market and sales take time to ramp up, especially in an indication where usage should be very cautious, so as to not accelerate the development of resistance to Cubicin.
The company stands by its guidance of $40-50 million in Cubicin sales for 2004. While that's pocket change for a large pharma company, it's not too shabby for a small drug company like Cubist.
During 2003, Pfizer's Zyvox had worldwide sales of $181 million. Over time, a drug like Cubicin should be able to attain similar sales numbers and that would make Cubist pretty successful in the world of small drug companies.
Maybe next time 60 Minutes wants to run a drug story, they can take their big pharma blinders off and take a look at some of the small biotechs that have successfully developed drugs to serve niche markets.
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Fool contributor Charly Travers does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article.