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Eyetech Gains Despite Loss

Shares of Eyetech Pharmaceuticals (EYET) rose Wednesday even though the company late Tuesday said that its third-quarter loss was greater than Wall Street had expected.

However, the real test for Eyetech comes in mid-December when the Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule on its application for Macugen, a drug for the sight-robbing disease called wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

Two hours after markets had closed Tuesday, Eyetech said it lost $24.7 million, or 60 cents a share, on revenue of $13.5 million. The consensus view among analysts polled by Thomson First Call was for a loss of $17.8 million, or 35 cents a share, on revenue of $15.5 million.

For the same period last year, Eyetech lost $14.3 million, or $4.12 a share, on $12.4 million in revenue.

In early trading Wednesday, Eyetech's shares climbed 79 cents, or 1.9%, to $41.80.

Quarterly financial data is of secondary interest to analysts and investors right now because Eyetech has plenty of financial support from its marketing and development partner Pfizer (PFE). The big issue is when -- and to what extent -- the FDA approves Macugen.

An FDA advisory panel reviewed the drug in late August. Although the panel didn't make a recommendation, analysts say they were encouraged by the proceedings and by comments from some committee members.

Investors in Eyetech have also been encouraged by competitors' recent setbacks.

On Oct. 14, Alcon (ACL) said a key late-stage clinical test showed no difference between its experimental steroid drug called Retaane vs. an existing therapy for wet AMD. Despite the results, Alcon vowed it would submit an application to the FDA by year-end.

Eight days later, Iridex (IRIX), a small medical device firm, said preliminary results of its experimental laser treatment for wet AMD showed no significant difference vs. a placebo treatment. Iridex's treatment is called transpupillary thermotherapy, or TTT.

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