Inside the world of business
Amarin success will attract major suitors
Amarin, a small Dublin-based biopharma business, has struck gold with the approval of its first product AMR101 from the US Food and Drug Administration. AMR101, now known as Vascepa, has shown significant efficacy is lowering high levels of triglycerides – blood fats – which can cause coronary disease.
Significantly it does so without adversely affecting the levels of other blood components, including one known as bad cholesterol, or LDL-C. This is an issue for Vascepa’s only competitor in the market, a drug called Lovaza, which is produced by GlaxoSmithKline. Lovaza boasts sales of close to $1 billion, giving some indication of the opportunity now open to Amarin.
Jon Lecroy, a US analyst with MKM Partners, says Vascepa has the potential to reach sales of $1.25 billion in 2017 and Dr Manus Rogan, whose Fountain Healthcare led the fundraising that saw its development through, last night likened it to a Lipitor or a Crestor, the world’s two best-selling cholesterol drugs.
That remains to be seen. For now, Amarin has to decide how to proceed. Chief executive and chairman Joe Zakrzewski has previously been bullish in asserting the company’s intention to go it alone in manufacturing and marketing the drug but, in the era of the patent cliff, there will be no shortage of suitors among the major pharma companies.
Amarin will also pursue a wider label for the drug. At the moment, it is licensed for people with very high triglycerides (levels above 500mg per decilitre), which amounts to about four million people the US alone, the company has said previously. Securing approval to treat those with levels of between 200 and 500 mg/dl would increase this target market tenfold and the company has trial data showing its effectiveness in treating this group.
Whatever of the future, the FDA green light is a major triumph for a company that has diced with bankruptcy on more than one occasion – relying on the largesse of Elan at one point in the late 1990s and, more recently, on a $70 million fundraising led by Fountain Healthcare, the Irish life sciences venture capital group.
AIB must take action on personal debt
The enthusiasm being shown by AIB’s newish chief executive for shutting branches is in marked contrast to the speed with which he is addressing the issue of overborrowed customers.
David Duffy said that the number of cases in which it had used the advanced forbearance techniques – which the taxpayers have paid for via the €21 billion recapitalisation of the banks – stands in the mid-teens. Very slow progress.
However, in the same time period Mr Duffy has identified 67 branches which can be closed.
The common thread is that Mr Duffy is concentrating on the sort of things that please shareholders. They like to hear to about cost savings – such as closing branches – but start getting a little neuralgic when bankers mention debt forgiveness and forbearance.
Fair enough you might say, if it was not for the fact that Mr Duffy’s shareholder is the Government and by extension the taxpayer.
The Government – via the Central Bank – has made it clear that it wants to see real progress being made by all the banks in working their way through the mountain of unsustainable personal debt on their balance sheets.