Isis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IONS) releases earnings on Friday, but don't expect the company to give investors much information about the launch of its approved drug, Kynamaro. The drug is sold by Isis' marketing partner Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY), which doesn't break out sales of the cholesterol-lowering drug nor let Isis say much either.
If Isis could talk, investors might not like what they hear. Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AEGR), which sells a competing drug called Juxtapid, fell more than 40% last week after lowering its sales guidance for Juxtapid to a range of $150 million to $160 million from a prior estimate of $180 million to $200 million.
Patients are discontinuing Juxtapid at a higher-than-expected rate, which could be good for Isis and Sanofi if they switch to Kynamro. But Aegerion also blamed the lower guidance on prescription growth in the U.S. that was lower than expected. It's possible that those patients are going to Kynamro, but it's more likely that they aren't going on any therapy (perhaps because Aegerion's estimation of the orphan population eligible to take the drugs was too high and the patients don't actually exist). Aegerion is also having problems getting Juxtapid reimbursed in foreign countries, a problem that Sanofi may also be experiencing.
Fortunately Isis Pharmaceuticals isn't dependent on Kynamaro like Aegerion is on Juxtapid. As Rule Breakers analyst Karl Thiel succinctly put it in his report on second quarter earnings, "We were never focused on Kynamro as a major revenue driver for the company."
32 more drugs
That's right, believe it or not, Isis Pharmaceuticals has 32 drugs in its pipeline. Isis has been able to develop so many drug candidates -- a lot of them through partnerships -- because the drugs are all built on the company's antisense technology. Once it figured out how to knock down the expression of one gene, applying the technology to another gene is relatively trivial.
Isis and its partners still have to pick the right targets to knock down; lowering the protein level has to treat the symptoms of the underlying diseases. Based on pipeline progression, Isis seems to be doing a pretty good job of it. In the last three months, the biotech has received seven different milestone payments from partners as their drugs advanced through development.
Isis' most advanced wholly owned drug is ApoCIII, but don't expect to hear much about the drug on the conference call; Isis just started a phase 3 trial of the drug in patients with a rare disease called familial chylomicronemia syndrome, a rare disease that causes patients to have extremely high triglyceride levels. Data won't read out until 2016. The drug might be used more broadly in patients with high levels of triglycerides.
It's possible we might hear about phase 2 data from ISIS-GCCR and ISIS-PTP1B during Friday's conference call. The company teased us on the second quarter earnings report, noting that data from both trials were "upcoming key milestones." Both drugs are being tested in patients with type 2 diabetes, a rather large indication albeit one with lots of competition.