The FDA approved the first obesity drug in 13 years on Wednesday, and shares of Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) had been trading up as much as 40%. According to the LA Times, "a clinical trial of lorcaserin published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that two-thirds of patients on the drug lost 5% of their body weight, while a third lost at least 10%, after one year taking the drug as a supplement to diet and exercise." That wasn't the only good news hitting the pharmaceutical wires today. In my opinion, not only does Arena look fantastic at these levels, but two other drug companies have caught my eye and carry some very nice upside potential.
Supernus Pharmaceuticals (SUPN), which trades in a 52-week range of $4.30 (52-week low) to $15.09 (52-week high), was trading as high as $15.15/share on Wednesday. Shares were up roughly 17% at one point during trading today as the company continued its rally from Tuesday's session on the news that it won tentative regulatory approval from the FDA for its generic form of topiramate. Topiramate is one of the most widely used medications by patients battling epilepsy.
The company noted that it would like to receive a final approval from the FDA. According to the Associated Press, "final approval, which will allow Supernus to sell the drug as an epilepsy treatment, depends on whether it can resolve 'a marking exclusivity issue' tied to a specific pediatric population." I'd remain cautious on Supernus given that even though the stock could experience a multisession pop, as was the case after it announced the tentative approval, neither the FDA nor the company set a timetable to the resolve this issue. If the time frame does get dragged out, there may be some short-term downside before the company and potential shareholders can experience the long-term upside. For potential shareholders looking to establish a position in Supernus, a small one would be appropriate, and then they add to that position as earnings and sales numbers are announced with regard to topiramate.
Amarin Corporation PLC (AMRN), which trades in a 52-week range of $5.99 (52-week low) to $15.02 (52-week high), was trading as high as $15.40/share on Wednesday. Shares were up roughly 10% at one point, as an analyst from Jefferies & Co. reiterated a buy rating on the stock and set a price target of between $24/share and $26/share. The good news for Amarin doesn't necessarily come just in the form of an upgrade, as Jefferies was also very positive on the possibility of a patent award for AMR101 (a fish oil medication that is prescription-only), which will protect the formulation through 2030.
Amarin, which has turned a profit in two out of the last four quarters, is expected to post a loss of $0.14/share for the June quarter and a loss of $1.01/share for the year. That said, if the company is awarded the AMR101 patent and granted protection through 2030, then estimates for full-year 2012 could be surpassed. Sales both domestically and internationally would also need to surpass estimates in an effort to demonstrate significant growth for Amarin. The estimates for the June quarter seem to be achievable; however, I'd remain cautious at these levels, especially since the patents haven't been awarded just yet. Potential shareholders looking to establish a position in Amarin should do so with a small one, and then add to that position as earnings and sales numbers are announced with regard to AMR101.
Disclosure: I am long ARNA.