John T. forwarded me a link to a penny stock-pumping Web site that posted a hilarious "story" (and no, it wasn't intended to be funny) on Oculus Innovative Sciences ( OCLS), my favorite purveyor of diluted bleach water. The Monday night post included this passage: "According to my sources, within the next day or so, the company will be announcing some news in regards to marketing efforts related to this new Rx product which is indicated for use by health care professionals to manage the debridement of wounds such as stage I-IV pressure ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, post-surgical wounds, first- and second-degree wounds, grafted and donor sites." Well, wouldn't you know it, but Tuesday morning, Oculus issued a press release on this new magical prescription diluted bleach water product, which included this passage: "The professional product is indicated for use by health care practitioners to manage the debridement of wounds such as stage I-IV pressure ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, post-surgical wounds, first- and second-degree wounds, grafted and donor sites." Uncanny! I wonder who the stock pumper's source is? I can't even begin to guess!
Onward. Francine M. writes, "What are your thoughts on BioSante Pharmaceuticals ( BPAX)?" I used to be a big fan of BioSante and its main product LibiGel, a not-yet-approved testosterone gel for women suffering from female sexual dysfunction. You can read some of my old stories on Biosante that date back to 2004 by clicking here. Sadly, most were written when BioSante's stock price was much higher. All these years later, I still think LibiGel has a good shot of approval, assuming positive data from the ongoing phase III studies. (I have no reason to think LibiGel doesn't work or is not safe.) My biggest issue with BioSante today, and I've told CEO Stephen Simes this repeatedly, is that the company desperately lacks a deep-pocketed marketing partner for LibiGel. When Proctor & Gamble ( PG) gave up on a competing female sexual dysfunction testosterone product, it sent a message to the marketplace, deliberate or not, that an FSD product (think female Viagra) would have a tough time commercially. BioSante can change that perception if and when the company lands a Big Pharma partner eager to spend huge bucks on the all-encompassing consumer advertising campaign that will be required to launch and market a product like LibiGel.
Emiko H. writes, "Could you please comment on Gilead Sciences ( GILD)? The last mention from you was around July 23. I'd like to know why the stock has gone down so much." I'm very close to giving up on Gilead. The stock has been an incredible source of frustration this year, down about 14% year to date. The stock is under pressure because investors are freaked out about what happens to the company's growth rate when patent protection for some of its key HIV drugs starts running out in 2017. Yes, I know, 2017 seems like a long time from now, but what can I say, this is the debate that investors and analysts are now having about Gilead, and it's killing the stock. Personally, I think the bear arguments are a tad overplayed, but apparently the market does not and has not for some time now. Are you getting a good sense of my frustration here? Another problem with Gilead, I'm sad to report, is a noticeable decline in the Street's confidence with company management. This is tricky and harder to gauge accurately, but let me just say I hear an increasing number of health care fund portfolio managers and analysts expressing their belief that Gilead's senior executives seem out of touch or somehow less engaged with the business and the Street. The collective strength of Gilead's management team has always been one of the reasons to own the stock, so perhaps these guys are just going through a rough patch. I hope so, and I also hope they get back to their A game in a hurry.
Jim C. has a beef with some of my coverage of genetic test maker Sequenom ( SQNM). "You use the phrase "data fabrication scandal," he writes, but "there is no evidence or report anywhere of data fabrication with regards to Sequenom's SEQureDx. Please be more responsible."
Some soft criticism from Jack E.: "I am not really a fan of yours but today your post was very useful. You have no reason to bash companies that invested 20-25 years to develop meds so we all can live a better life. Most R&D companies do not survive it since they have no products to sell for a long many years. I am an R&D engineer (hip and knee implants) it is a tough life here, but we are the developers of such devices and have dedicated our life to the better of all others. Please consider to do the same, and remember that many people read your posts so be kind and that will go a long way for you. No hard feelings." I'm often criticized for being skeptical about drug and biotech stocks - "bashing" in Jack's parlance. Jack is rather polite in his criticism, but others often interpret my glass-half-empty outlook as somehow reveling in misery and disease, going as far as accusing me of a deliberate effort to somehow stall or stymie efforts to develop new drugs. Well, that's simply ridiculous. The reason I "bash" drug stocks is because drug development is hard and ends in failure way more often than success. I assume people invest in drug and biotech stocks to make money. If that's true, then a heaping dose of skepticism is not only warranted, it's absolutely essential. When there's something positive to say, I'll be the first to say it. I doff my hat to folks like Jack who work to develop new medicines or devices that cure disease or better the life of others. But that's not what this column, or any of my work at TheStreet.com, is about. -- Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston