Amarin fish-oil drug approved for sale in US

The heart pill could be a blockbuster product.

By Minyanville.com Jul 27, 2012 12:26PM
Image: Prescription medicine expenses © Don Farrall/Photodisc/Getty ImagesAmarin's (AMRN) heart drug made from fish oil won approval for sale in the U.S., giving the company a product that may attract takeover offers.

On a conference call Thursday night, Amarin CEO Joseph Zakrzewski said a takeover is one of three options going forward for the company. Amarin will either launch the drug, called Vascepa, on its own, partner with another company to help market the product, or sell the entire company to a rival.

"We believe all three of these paths can lead to success," he said.

If it sells the drug on its own, Amarin would hire 200 to 300 salespeople later this year, Zakrzewski said. The drug would hit the market in 2013.

American shares of the Irish drug company were down more than 8% by midday Friday. The stock rose to $15.31 before it was halted Thursday afternoon. Shares more than doubled this year on hope for approval of the drug.

Some analysts believe Amarin's drug will eventually be a blockbuster product that takes sales from GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) Lovaza. A recent survey by Leerink Swann found a number of doctors who said they were enthusiastic about prescribing Amarin's pill.

The Amarin drug aims to lower triglycerides, a type of fat, in the blood. While the Glaxo drug is designed to do the same thing, Lovaza raises levels of bad cholesterol in some patients. Amarin's drug doesn't have that side effect. The pill is more potent and pure than over-the-counter fish-oil products.

Amarin was one of two biotech companies expecting decisions from the FDA Thursday. Horizon Pharma (HZNP) also won approval to sell a drug, Rayos, for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Rayos is a delayed-release version of the steroid prednisone. The drug is approved in Europe where it is sold as Lodotra. Partner Mundipharma has sales rights for the drug in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Shares of Horizon tumbled more than 20% by midday Friday. The shares traded at $7.64 before being halted just before US markets closed Thursday.

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