Celgene Not Done and Dusted
Posted at 11:45 a.m. EDT on Thursday, June 21
Is the Celgene (CELG - Get Report) growth story over? Is this the denouement of one of the great pharmaceutical growth entities out there? Isn't that the ultimate takeaway of their decision this morning to pull the European application for expanded use of Revlimid as the first-line drug against multiple myeloma, a deadly blood disease.At the same time we have what may be the new star in the multiple-myeloma field, Onyx Pharmaceutical (ONXX), which just got approval from an FDA panel for a new drug to fight the same disease that Celgene's Revlimid is meant to defeat. Is this a star is born while another one dies? I know that with this news the Street has turned dramatically against Celgene, although I think it is important to point out that Celgene, now at $59, was as high as $80 and has been underperforming its cohort all year, causing me to wonder if some people weren't speculating this application removal might be in the wind. But the stunning decline does make sense because a European approval for expanded use of Revlimid had been in the numbers, so to speak, because CEO Bob Hugin, one of my favorites, had assured us that huge sales awaited the company when it got approved. And it was WHEN, not if. Plus, if Onyx's drug is so heavily embraced by this FDA panel, maybe the whole Revlimid franchise could be in jeopardy. Let me say right up front, even though Onyx has roared on this approval it probably could go still higher after a couple of days of digestion. I don't like to buy up huge and would prefer just to say I have missed it. But I have liked this company ever since it came up with novel drugs to combat two very difficult typically fatal illnesses, kidney and liver cancer. Onyx shocked people with this new myeloma drug and as much as Celgene's European approval for Revlimid expanded use was in the numbers, Onyx's new drug certainly wasn't. But should Celgene just be abandoned? The company's credibility has been hurt here. But at the same time it did reiterate its estimates and did talk about earning $8 to $9 a share in 2015, which would make it one of the cheapest growth stories out there. I also think that the company deserves some benefit of the doubt when it says that the application will be refiled for expanded use of Revlimid will be refiled when more data is available.