Why Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. Shares Fell $136

Intercept's "perfect" data may turn out to be not so perfect after all.

Sean Williams
Sean Williams
Jan 13, 2014 at 1:25PM
Health Care

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Intercept Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ICPT), a clinical-stage developer of therapies focused on chronic liver diseases, fell as much as $136, or 31%, after reporting additional data from its pivotal Flint trial on obeticholic acid (OCA) as a treatment for nonalcoholic steathohepatitis (NASH) on Sunday.

So what: Intercept's press release, which mainly touched on the subject of why the study was stopped early due to statistically significant efficacy, also noted that "lipid abnormalities involving increased total cholesterol and LDL and decreased HDL were seen in OCA-treated patients compared to placebo." As a reminder, HDL cholesterol is considered the bad type of cholesterol physicians and researchers are always trying to lower while raising HDL, the good kind of cholesterol. Intercept notes in its press release that lipid abnormalities are common in NASH patients and it will review its data to determine whether or not these lipids return to pre-treatment levels.

Now what: I said on Friday following Intercept's 545% run higher that the clinical data had better be perfect from here on out or the share price could get clobbered – and today we're seeing what happens with potentially not-so-perfect data. Ultimately, these lipid abnormalities may indeed just be a cause-and-effect of NASH. Then again, the chance that OCA is causing these abnormalities is more than enough reason for speculators to at least consider taking some money off the table after what's truly been a historic two-day run. Personally, I get seasick just looking at the weekly chart on Intercept and would suggest sticking to the sidelines until we have a better idea of why the OCA-treated population saw their bad cholesterol levels rise relative to the control arm.