It was just business as usual for Questcor Pharmaceuticals (UNKNOWN:QCOR.DL) which delivered another quarter of phenomenal revenue and profit growth to begin 2014.
For the first quarter, Questcor reported revenue of $227.1 million, a 68% increase from the year-ago period. It attributed its strong results to the expanded usage of Acthar Gel, it's only FDA-approved product, in a number of therapeutics areas, especially rheumatology which has become the company's single largest growth contributor. BioVectra, Questcor's specialty manufacturing subsidiary, also saw its revenue more than double to $17.3 million from $8.4 million in the prior year period.
Total Acthar Gel vials shipped during the quarter increased 47% to 7,080 from 4,830 with new paid prescriptions jumping 35% to between 2,325 and 2,350. Questcor reminded investors that orders can vary from season to season, and winter months often present its greatest challenge, especially given the slowdown in the reimbursement process from insurers for certain specialty drugs like Acthar.
Still, new paid rheumatology prescriptions more than tripled to between 570 and 580 prescriptions from just 140 to 150 in Q1 last year. Multiple sclerosis relapse patients also boosted their new paid prescriptions by 13% year-over-year. Most importantly, Questcor expects insurance coverage of Acthar Gel to remain favorable moving forward.
This increase in Questcor's top-line led to an 84% surge in profits to an adjusted $1.40 per share from $0.76 per share in the year-ago quarter. Mind you, this was inclusive of an 84% increase in research and development expenses to $19.9 million from $10.8 million.
As Questcor announced in April, it's in the process of being acquired by Mallinckrodt (NYSE:MNK), and it expects its joint merger proxy to be filed by mid-May. Shareholders of both companies will need to approve the buyout if it is to occur. Under the current terms, Questcor shareholders would receive $30 in cash and 0.897 shares of Mallinckrodt for each share of Questcor they own.