Last year was a mixed one for specialty drug company ViroPharma (Nasdaq: VPHM): There was commercial success for its one marketed drug, and progress with one pipeline candidate was offset by setbacks with another.

Although ViroPharma offered its preliminary 2007 results in January, on Wednesday it released full-year 2007 results and guidance for 2008 and beyond. Since acquiring the antibiotic Vancocin from Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) in 2004, ViroPharma has turned this cheap acquisition into a nice niche drug.

Vancocin Sales*

Growth (YOY) 


$210 to $235

3% to 15%













*in millions; **ViroPharma forecast; ***Drug acquired in the fourth quarter; three quarters of Eli Lilly sales included.

Vancocin's sales growth is clearly decelerating, but ViroPharma has started to more actively market it and increased its sales force.

Last year, ViroPharma dodged a bullet when a competing drug by Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ) was underwhelming versus Vancocin in clinical testing. Unfortunately, ViroPharma and partner Wyeth's (NYSE: WYE) entry into the hepatitis C space was also underwhelming, because of possible liver safety issues for their polymerase inhibitor in phase 2 testing. Patients treated with the drug are still being followed to check its long-term effectiveness and safety, and ViroPharma will provide an update once there is enough data to determine whether to continue the program.

Since I called ViroPharma my dirt cheap Black Friday value pick in November, shares are up 12% (although I've liked the company at even higher prices). While sales of Vancocin are slowing down and its hepatitis C compound has lost much of its luster, ViroPharma has another growth opportunity with its Camvia (maribavir) transplant prophylactic.

If the results of Camvia's two phase 3 trials are successful, ViroPharma would send new drug marketing applications to the FDA and the European Medicines Agency in 2009. Even though Camvia's market potential is only several hundred million dollars per year, an approval would be very good for a drugmaker of ViroPharma's size.

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Fool contributor Brian Lawler does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Eli Lilly is a selection of the Income Investor newsletter.The Fool has an A+ disclosure policy.