Biogen Idec (BIIB - Get Report) was forced to pull Tysabri off the market because the multiple sclerosis drug was found to cause a serious and often fatal brain infection in a small percentage of patients. Biogen was able to return Tysabri to the market because the drug was very effective in treating multiple sclerosis -- more so than competing MS drugs. Patients demanded the Tysabri's return, believing the safety risks were acceptable. FDA agreed.
Affymax isn't likely to find kidney dialysis patients clamoring for Omontys' return. The drug's benefits aren't compelling enough and the risks too great, particularly since anemia can be treated just as effectively with Epogen.
Omontys sales in the first nine months of 2012 totaled $34.6 million, compared to Epogen sales of $1.5 billion in the same time period. With the recall, closing that chasm further will be a real challenge and with no other drugs in development as a backup, investors are right to question why Affymax shouldn't just shut down.
-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.Follow @AdamFeuerstein