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What happened

After Pacira Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:PCRX) issued preliminary results for the fourth quarter, its shares jumped 17.3% today.

So what:

Pacira Pharmaceuticals markets the surgical pain medicine Exparel, and growing demand for it helped the company produce $72.9 million in revenue during the fourth quarter, according to preliminary results. Exparel sales grew 6.3% year over year, to $71.4 million, bringing full-year 2016 sales to $265.8 million, up 10.8% from 2015. Overall, Pacira Pharmaceuticals' revenue is expected to total $276.4 million, up 11% from 2015. 

"2016 was a year of solid execution that has set the stage for continued growth of EXPAREL," said Dave Stack, chief executive officer and chairman of Pacira. "We made important progress advancing our three-part growth strategy that focuses on expanding awareness around opioid-sparing solutions, generating robust clinical data, and forming strategic partnerships."

Stack was mum, however, on how much of those sales made it to the bottom line. Analysts are targeting earnings per share of $0.02 for Q4, and $0.54 for the full year.

Now what

The company hopes to continue to expand Exparel's use as an alternative to opioids. In 2017, it expects to provide results from a phase 4 trial in knee and spine surgery, and results from a phase 3 trial evaluating Exparel's use as a nerve block. Additionally, management plans to begin phase 4 trials in soft tissue procedures that could eventually increase Exparel's addressable market, too. 

Because the market for opioids is worth billions, and there's significant momentum to shift away from opioid treatments, there could be an opportunity for Exparel to capture additional market share in 2017. For context, roughly 300 million prescriptions were written for pain medicines in 2015, representing $24 billion in sales. Given this company's opportunity to expand Exparel's sales, it's unsurprising that investors cheered today's results.

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