Data on Fish-Oil Pill May Justify Amarin's Surging Stock Price
(Bloomberg) -- Amarin Corp.’s fish-oil pill improved survival for high-risk cardiovascular patients in a long-term study, further evidence that the company may have a blockbuster drug on its hands.
The company teased the initial findings from the clinical trial in September, showing that the drug reduced by 25 percent a variety of heart complications, including chest pain and procedures to clear clogged arteries.
The stock has gained sevenfold since that presentation, and the detailed results presented Saturday at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago look even better. When only the three most feared conditions -- death, heart attack and stroke -- were considered, patients’ risk fell 26 percent on the drug.
The drug, which goes by the brand name Vascepa, also improved patient survival, the main goal of any medical treatment, by reducing deaths by cardiac causes by 20 percent. Analysts who follow the company have predicted that Vascepa could generate more than $1 billion in annual sales by 2023.
If approved by regulators, Vascepa would add another tool for doctors to treat heart disease, which kills 610,000 people a year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people with high levels of bad cholesterol take statins, considered a mainstay of reducing heart risk. Patients in the Vascepa trial were also on statins.
“Finding that the drug was positive and statistically significant in death and heart attack and stroke is something you just don’t usually see,” Amarin Chief Executive Officer John Thero said in a telephone interview before the presentation.
One major controversy around Amarin is whether the effects of Vacsepa, which is derived from fish oil, could be replicated with other fish-oil pills. The company has argued that only its drug will provide a cardiovascular benefit.
“Patients who have a serious medical condition should not expect to be getting benefit from a drug that is an omega-3 mixture,” Thero said. “Hopefully some of the myths about what works and what doesn’t work will be alleviated.”
Another study presented at the Chicago meeting showed a different type of fish oil failed to help the hearts of healthy people, raising questions about whether conflicting scientific research on fish oil stems from different patient groups or differences in the therapies. The study, led by JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, found that BASF SE’s fish oil therapy Omacor didn’t prevent heart disease or cancer from developing in the first place.
Thero said the company will ask U.S. regulators to expand Vascepa’s prescribing information to include a broader group of patients in the early part of next year. It is currently approved only for certain high-risk patients, which limits its sales potential.
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