Allow me to cut straight to the point speaking in layman's terms.
Amarin (NASDAQ:AMRN) currently has a prescription-grade fish oil compound that is FDA-approved for the treatment of "severe" levels of fat (triglycerides) in the blood. AMRN is also attempting to get additional or expanded FDA approval for the treatment of only "high" levels of fat in the blood (and also on statin therapy) based on the successful results of its ANCHOR trial. Many of the AMRN faithful are pinning their hopes on this FDA approval. The number of Americans who fit into the classification of the currently approved "severe" (hypertriglyceridemia) or very high (triglyceridesis) is relatively limited compared to just the "high triglycerides" population (for which there isn't even a fancy term mentioned on its website). Longs are excited about such a substantial increase in the potential customer base that consists of many millions of more Americans.
Again, let me cut directly to the chase. If doctors and their most desperate patients have little interest, for whatever reason, in Vascepa why would the less "ill" population fare any better? They have between 250 and 300 reps trying to sell it to doctors. They are failing badly. Doctors and/or patients, for whatever reason, just simply aren't interested. I touched on this topic in my previous AMRN article earlier in the week, pointing out, among other things, that the 26% increase in new prescriptions reported compared to the week before was misleading and unimpressive because there was also a corresponding 25% increase in the number of business days most doctors' offices were open and even available to write new prescriptions. I then got bombarded with messages telling me that my math must be wrong, because looking backwards a 4-day week is 20% less than a 5-day week and 26% is very impressive versus 20%. To make it more clear what has happened for the reader, I have taken the same new prescription data from the last month and broke it down to a daily average rate of new prescriptions to smooth out the effect of holidays:
|week ending:||new scripts:||average daily scripts:|
Clearly the average daily scripts written in the week after Memorial Day was barely changed when compared to the week of Memorial Day. Worse yet, in over a month, it's barely up at all. For a "lifesaving drug" launched just less than 3 months before the data above, one would think there would be more of an acceleration of new prescriptions being written by doctors. Since there's between 250 and 300 AMRN sales reps at any one time, the average rep can be accredited essentially for 1-2 prescriptions per day. If the average doctor who starts writing prescriptions for his patients writes 5-10 of them per day, that would mean on average 20% of the sales reps have signed up 1 doctor each and 80% of AMRN's sales reps have yet to sign up a single doctor yet. The drug, thus so, is a commercial failure and AMRN is dead at this pace.
Patients and doctors, for whatever reason, clearly aren't taking and writing prescriptions for Vascepa for the neediest patients. There's no reason to think that suddenly the same failing sales reps are going to have any better success peddling the same exact drug to a population of people who are far less in need of it by the very definition of the indication.
Think about this analogy for a minute. Imagine I invented a drug that instantly cured migraine headaches. But for some reason hardly anybody believed me and hardly any doctor would write a prescription for it. Would you be interested in investing in my migraine medicine venture? Of course not. Now picture this. Imagine I told you that yes, very few migraine patients were interested in my medicine and, worse, almost no doctors were interested -- but wait! I'm about to get FDA approval to market it to doctors and patients with mild headaches.
You would rightfully yawn because if my migraine medicine fails to interest the most desperate for relief and their doctors, there's no way the less desperate with more mild headaches are going to be interested. Likewise with Vascepa, I believe the medicine's failure to show success with the population in most need of medication is a warning flag of how unpopular the drug will be among those who don't need it as much. If you can't sell water to a thirsty man, you're not going to have any better luck selling it to the less thirsty.
AMRN I believe continues to remain a short while keeping a close eye on the weekly prescription data. Good luck to all stakeholders.
Disclosure: I am short AMRN. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.