BEDMINSTER, NJ (
held a Vascepa launch conference call Thursday night. Unfortunately, Amarin should have done this call on July 27, the day after the lipid-lowering prescription fish-oil pill was approved.
Launching any drug is hard. Launching a drug 133 days after it was approved is really hard. Yet that's the deep hole Amarin management has dug for itself after wasting precious time on a quixotic quest to land a Big Pharma marketing partner (or even sillier) a takeout suitor.
On Thursday night, Amarin announced plans to raise $100 million in debt financing and the intention to hire 250-300 sales representatives. This is the dreaded Vascepa "go it alone" launch strategy.
Amarin shares are down 17% to $9.97 in Friday's pre-market trading session.
On a brief conference call, Amarin CEO Joe Zakrzewski tried his best to put an upbeat spin on the bad news. He reiterated his previous claims that "all options are still on the table" and "partner discussions were still active."
So active that Amarin needed to raise $100 million in debt?
On the never-ending topic of
Vascepa's New Chemical Entity
(NCE) status, Zakrzewski insisted Amarin still had no idea how or when the FDA would issue a ruling. An update of the Orange Book is expected next week and Amarin bulls were hoping to get some positive news.
Zakrzewski called the lack of an NCE decision an "overhang" for the company but also "much ado about nothing." He didn't bother to explain how something could be both negative and irrelevant, but then, common sense is in short supply at Amarin HQ.
Even if FDA does grant NCE status to Vascepa, it's hard to see how it matters now. Amarin clearly has no serious interest from potential suitors or partners. The Amarin bulls who believed
last month's delayed decision to hire a sales force
signaled a pending deal were very wrong.
Amarin wouldn't address the issue directly Thursday night but it seems clear now that a delay in finalizing the $100 million debt rescue package was the only reason for not announcing the sales force hires at the end of November, as previously expected.
Not everyone is mired in the gloom. Amarin shorts are happy, but so are Zakrzewski and the other executives who sold
millions of dollars in company stock right after Vascepa was approved
. Those insider sales in the $13-14 range look even smarter tonight.
Amarin bulls are kicking themselves for not following Zakrzewski's lead.
-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.