Biotech CEOs are a rare presence on Twitter, so I'm generally supportive when I see a biotech boss dive into the social media fray. When a biotech CEO diverts from safe, bland corporate tweets to engage in some clever competitive trolling, I stand up and applaud.
Mayleben earns extra credit for trolling and sub-tweeting. His targets are the cholesterol-lowering PCSK9 drugs being developed by Amgen(AMGN) - Get Report and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals(REGN) - Get Report.
ETC-1002 is Esperion's cholesterol-lowering pill, which if eventually approved, could (should) steal market share from the injectable PCSK9 drugs. Patients with high cholesterol are accustomed to taking a daily statin pill, so adding ETC-1002 to further lower cholesterol will be easy and convenient. "Friendly" to both patients and doctors, according to Mayleben.
And as Mayleben further notes, payers might like ETC-1002. Esperion talks in broad strokes about pricing ETC-1002 similar to other cholesterol-lowering pills. Pharmacy benefit managers have already put Amgen and Regeneron on notice that they plan to demand price discounts or implement use restrictions on the PCSK9s once they are approved and launched later this year. As with hepatitis C drugs, payers are worried about a flood of patients being treated with PCSK9s and driving costs sky high.
This is not to say Amgen and Regeneron are running scared. The PCSK9s appear to drive down stubbornly high cholesterol levels better than Esperion's ETC-1002. And the PSCK9s are on the verge of FDA approval this summer, while Esperion still needs to conduct large phase III studies of ETC-1002. Any commercial threat to PCSK9s from ETC-1002 is years off.
Still, I admire Mayleben's spunk and his willingness to take a swing at his larger rivals. Nicely done.
Esperion announced new, phase II data on ETC-1002 earlier today.
Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.