NitroMed Hits New Low

The stock plunges after the company withdraws its forecast.
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shares hit an all-time low Thursday as the Lexington, Mass., drugmaker withdrew its full-year sales guidance.

The stock was off 98 cents, or 26%, to $2.77, and hit an intraday low of $2.70, its worst level ever. NitroMed went public in late 2003.

The company pulled its forecast after posting a second-quarter loss of $18.3 million, or 50 cents a share, on sales of $2.86 million. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had expected a loss of 61 cents and sales of $4.6 million.

For the same period last year, NitroMed lost $22.6 million, or 75 cents a share, on revenue of $398,000.

NitroMed has struggled with sales of BiDil, a congestive heart failure drug for African-Americans, the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for an ethnic group.

The company has had trouble convincing managed-care firms to provide the drug with low copayments. BiDil, which reached the market in July 2005, combines two existing drugs that have lost patent protection. Early

sales efforts were hampered by an inadequate performance by a contract salesforce. The company has since hired its own sales representatives.

"We are optimistic about our second-quarter achievements in the priority areas of reimbursement and salesforce productivity," said Kenneth Bate, the chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

"However, because of the difficulty at this time of quantifying the impact of those achievements on BiDil prescription growth, as well as the variability in prescription numbers to date, we are withdrawing our previous net sales guidance of $20 million for 2006, at least until we are able to base such a projection on more consistent trends," he continued.

The company said it has signed agreements with two large pharmacy-benefit management firms to get BiDil placed in a preferred position in their formularies, which are lists of approved drugs. The move should lead to lower out-of-pocket payments for patients.

"By July 1, based on the company's best estimates using external and internal data sources, 40% to 50% of insured African-Americans over age 45 had access to BiDil at a copay of $25 or less," NitroMed said. Second-quarter prescriptions grew 20% from the first quarter.

By June 30, NitroMed had cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities worth $71.7 million.