UPDATED: Higher Vascepa sales fail to boost Amarin

Shares of Amarin Corp. plc stock fell more than 3 percent today despite the company’s release overnight of its first-quarter financial results that showed a more than a quadrupling of sales for heart medication Vascepa.

While Vascepa sales were only $2.3 million in the first three months of last year, Amarin, which has research headquarters in Groton, saw that number jump to $11 million in this year’s first quarter. Last year’s first-quarter numbers, however, represented initial startup of sales, and the $11 million figure wasn’t too much higher than fourth-quarter sales of $10.1 million.

John F. Thero, Amarin’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the quarter was “an important transitional period for Amarin” as it dealt with a reduced staff while boosting sales.

“Our revenue per sales representative continued to increase as did overall prescriptions from our top target,” Thero said. “We also continued to reduce expenses significantly.”

Thero, who addressed analysts this morning during a conference call, was particularly enthused by Amarin’s recently announced partnership with Kowa Pharmaceuticals America that will expand the Vascepa sales team. He expected that the combined Amarin-Kowa sales team would be able to reach out to doctors that represent 90 percent of the prescriptions for the competitive GlaxoSmithKline product Lovaza.

“We expect that our increased focus on key target accounts and our broader detailing with Kowa Pharmaceuticals America will result in meaningful revenue growth from Vascepa,” he said.

Amarin reported a net loss of $26 million in the first quarter compared with a loss of $62.2 million in the same period last year. Analysts had expected a loss of 18 cents a share, but Amarin reported losing only 16 cents a share.

Despite the better results than expected, investors focused on revenue figures that were a bit lower than consensus estimates.

Other quarterly highlights included:

- Net cash outflow from operations fell 54 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year.

- A key cardiovascular outcomes trial is now 85 percent enrolled.

- Amarin continues to appeal a regulatory decision to rescind a special protocol agreement that would ease the company’s ability to market Vascepa more widely.

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