On Thursday, April 4th, Acura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ACUR) announced that "it had been awarded a patent by the USPTO relating to its Aversion polymer matrix technology when utilized with any water soluble drug of abuse, as well as certain opioid products being developed by the company". In the wake of the company's positive news regarding Aversion, I wanted to examine several of the catalysts behind my decision to consider a position in the stock.
Overview: Based in Palatine, Illinois, Acura Pharmaceuticals is considered to be "a specialty pharmaceutical company which is currently engaged in the research, development, and commercialization of product candidates intended to address medication abuse and misuse utilizing its proprietary Aversion and Impede technologies". (Yahoo! Finance)
Pipeline: According to the company's website, Acura's product pipeline includes Oxecta Tablets CII, (which are a Schedule II narcotic indicated for the management of acute and chronic moderate to severe pain) and Nexafed, (which is an over-the-counter immediate-release pseudoephedrine HCl tablet that is used as a nasal decongestant in various non-prescription and prescription cold, sinus, and allergy products).
Shares of Acura Pharmaceuticals, which possess a market cap of just $95.94 million, settled at $2.06/share on volume of 55,486 shares by the end of Thursday's trading session. One of the things to point out for growth investors is the fact that shares of ACUR are 11.64% lower since January 1st of this year.
ACUR data by YCharts
There are two catalysts to consider when it comes to Acura Pharmaceuticals and they are the company's recent alliance with North Carolina-based Kerr Drugs and its pre-existing partnership with Pfizer (PFE), which should help improve its full-year performance given the fact Pfizer was also included several aspects of Thursday's patent approval.
KERR DRUG Alliance: On March 15th Acura Pharmaceuticals announced that it had teamed up with North Carolina-based KERR DRUGS to stock and sell Nexafed (an over-the-counter immediate-release pseudoephedrine HCl tablet). According to the company's press release, Robert B. Jones, who is the president and CEO of Acura Pharmaceuticals, not that company "is extremely pleased with Kerr Drug's decision to join the fight against methamphetamine abuse by stocking Nexafed®". Although the company had anticipated early interest in Nexafed® from a number of independent and locally-based pharmacies, it hadn't expected larger drug-store chains such as KERR DRUG to come on board and join its much publicized campaign against the use and proliferation of methamphetamine, which is simply known amongst drug users as "meth".
The big question, in my opinion, is whether or not the company's alliance with KERR DRUG will be a profitable one, and although an alliance of this size looks great from a theoretical standpoint, it's still too early to tell how much of an impact this will have on the company's near-term performance.
Pfizer Partnership: In October 2007, Acura signed a license, development, and commercialization agreement (commonly referred to as the "Pfizer Agreement") with what was then King Pharmaceuticals and is now a subsidiary of Pfizer. The deal allowed Pfizer to opportunity to develop and commercialize four opioid analgesic products using Acura's proprietary and patented Aversion Technology.
According to a July 30th 2012 post featured on Propthink.com, Pfizer had taken the steps to return to Acura Pharmaceuticals, three of the four above mentioned products to focus solely on the development of Oxecta CII Tablets.
Propthink's Editorial Staff had noted that, "the results of a Friday announcement from Pfizer hit the markets this morning, in which Pfizer terminated licenses to three products developed in part by Acura Pharmaceuticals. Licensing for three development-stage drugs utilizing Acura's abuse-resistant Aversion technology - Oxycodone hydrochloride with acetaminophen, hydrocodone bitartrate with acetaminophen, and an undisclosed opioid - were returned to the company after Friday's close".
When it comes to Acura's alliance with Pfizer, I think Thursday's patent-related announced strengthens the relationship both companies have with the other. When Pfizer essentially chose to focus solely on the development of Acura's Oxecta CII tablets, investors must have had the feeling they were on to something. According to Natty Greene, "the potential of Pfizer's investment in Acura could eventual total $154.5 million in milestone payments, which doesn't even include the royalties on the sales of FDA approved drugs which are set to commence with Oxecta on February 2, 2013".
Conclusion: When it comes to those who may be looking to establish a position in Acura, I'd keep a watchful eye on not only the company's pre-existing partnership with Pfizer, but I'm also very anxious to see how well its newly formed alliance with KERR DRUG will pan out.