Down reaction to Amarin report

Groton - Reaction Friday to Amarin Corp. plc's first earnings report since it started marketing the new heart medication Vascepa wasn't exactly uplifting.

The pharmaceutical stock, which has lost more than 30 percent of its value over the past three months on the Nasdaq exchange, continued to slide, finishing the day by dropping nearly 7 percent. The stock closed at $7.55, down 53 cents a share.

Investor concerns focused on the lack of specifics about how the early marketing of Vascepa has gone. Company officials during a conference call following the earnings release late Thursday said they were reluctant to give out numbers that represented only about three weeks of marketing.

"Amarin has not provided specific guidance regarding Vascepa sales targets, and it is too early to make accurate assessments on the sales of the product," chief executive Joseph J. Zakrzewski said during the call.

Amarin, gearing up its Vascepa sales force at the end of 2012, reported a $10.6 million loss in the fourth quarter of the year, or 7 cents a share. But the company, which is officially headquartered in New Jersey but has research-and-development offices on Bridge Street, also reported more than $260 million on hand, enough, according to officials, to launch Vascepa and finish studies that could lead to a larger market for the fish-oil drug.

While Zakrzewski wouldn't give out sales numbers, he said anecdotal information about marketing efforts was very positive. He said Vascepa was a "paradigm-shifting therapy" that represented a superior product to GlaxoSmithKline's Lovaza, the only other medicine approved by regulators for lowering triglycerides, a type of blood fat.

"Vascepa, at least for now, is ahead of where Lovaza was initially - in the first three weeks," Zakrzewski said. "Not that that means anything."

Amarin decided to market Vascepa on its own after failing to find a marketing partner. It has hired 275 pharmaceutical sales agents. The company still awaits a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on whether Vascepa will be designated a New Chemical Entity, which would give Amarin two extra years of patent protection.

But, now that Amarin has received 18 patents for Vascepa, Zakrzewski said winning the FDA designation is less important.

"I think people are getting more and more comfortable that it's about the patents," he said.

Zakrzewski said the next quarterly report will contain about two months' worth of Vascepa sales figures.

"We're pretty encouraged," he said.


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