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Biotech Stock Mailbag: Dendreon's Aftermath

Stocks in this article: DNDN SPPI PATH VRTX SGEN ALTH AMAG

Spend time on Twitter with "bio run-up" traders, and you'll see even more esoteric catalysts being invented for quick trades -- stuff like New Drug Application (NDA) submissions, FDA acceptance of NDAs or announcements of Special Protocol Assessments.

What you don't see or hear are people interested in owning biotech stocks that are launching drugs. Heck, maybe there are valid reasons for not owning "commercial" biotech stocks, especially if valuations get too plump before actual sales (and profits?) are recorded. Does that sound a bit like Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)?

What I do know for sure is that drug launches today are NOT a tradeable catalyst, and that's a very bad thing not to be. I miss the old days, but they seem long gone. Ignoring the new reality doesn't seem smart, unless you enjoy being pummeled over and over.

@pjkorman tweets (with some snark, which I appreciate), "Waiting for your take on SPPI report tomorrow. I know you're a fan."

Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (SPPI) rates a "meh" for its second-quarter earnings report. The company was once again profitable, earning $7.2 million, or 12 cents a share, but gross margins, operating margins and net profit margins were all down sequentially due to higher expenses. Selling, general and administrative costs were up substantially, even accounting for non-cash charges in the quarter.

The performance of the colon cancer drug Fusilev is what we all focus on these days, and sales were down 2% sequentially to $33.9 million. Given Spectrum's big marketing push and continued shortages of the generic competitor leucovorin, I expected sequentially higher sales of Fusilev.

Spectrum said it was very happy with Fusilev sales in the quarter, noting that the company had supply issues of its own, which meant full demand for the drug could not be met. Spectrum signed on new Fusilev suppliers at the end of the June, so with continued leucovorin shortages, Spectrum better turn in a stronger performance in the third quarter.

If Fusilev sales once again fall or remain flat sequentially in the September quarter, it could mean that leucovorin resupply is eating into Fusilev sales, which is what Spectrum bears expect to happen. For the record, Spectrum said on its call that it expects equal or higher Fusilev sales in the third quarter.

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