Avoid This Biotech Stock


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Stock Price at Underperform Recommendation


VIVUS Profile

CAPS Star Rating (out of 5)



Mountain View, Calif.



Market Cap

$2.26 billion

Sources: S&P Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and Motley Fool CAPS.

This Week's Pitch:
I put my downthum in on Vivus, INC late in the trading day of July 17th. A date that will remain in memory for many Vivus workers and stock holders as the long awaited results for the FDA's decision for its newly named obesity drug now named Qsymia. The delay in announcing results saw a gut wrenching see-saw with swings of 10% out the gate as investors tried to determine if it was a "bear raid" or leaked bad news. I saw similar activity on Dendreon, so I waited and lurked with a potential downthumb should they receive a CRL or onnerous labeling requirements. With a 20-2 favorable decision by the advisory board in February, the smarter play would have probably been a wait until the approval and "sell the news". My thoughts on the delay was that labeling was indeed going to be restrictive and the PR needed careful analogy. Even a "leaked' or was it just a pre-written press release, supported passing.

Since Qsymia was approved, I'll have to settle for a "sell the news". The labeling on pregnancy requiring monthly tests, cardiological monitoring, and restrictions on pharmacies adds to the concern. A piece written by Citron, a known player of shorts, especially around option time potentially added to the selling this past Friday and we "may bounce up".

The patent issues are possibly old news, but the formulation question, whether doctors/clinics will continue to off-label the two common components remains. I had heard similar from a doctor interviewed who runs a clinic. KV-A is an example of a company that has competition from its own product.

Add in the following factors, and I'll hold my downthumb.

1. Arena's drug just approved has fewer issues with prescription and similar results. (I won't debate the generalities, just noting that there is similar competition).

2. Vivus has no MFG capabilities/experience and planned to "ramp" up slowly.

3. Vivus, is hoping for a buyout. The Feb 20-2 decision by the advisory board should have given them some time to shop.

4. Less a buyout, companies with single products, going it alone have generally faired poorly, [Dendreon (NAS: DNDN) , Savient, Somaxon], etc.

5. Many biopharma followers have little patience. It's always time to look for the next multi-bagger. Loyalty of the holders is dim when you have a 400% gain in a year. Only the last ones in don't have a profit to protect/bank.

Overall, I felt my downthumb before the FDA announcement had the best CAPS edge as it covered me against a sudden drop due to bad news afterhours. If I was "wrong" about the immediate "sell the news" on an approval and difficult labeling, I was/am pretty sure this one's growth to a $2.5 Billion company with a bit "Obese" for this stage in the game.

Hold down and watch. A buyout could still materialize, but I think unlikely. Stronger, institutional hands with more patience could relieve the nervous retail traders of their decision burden holding this up. My likely scenario is a slow drift back to $18 or so. Then it depends on Vivus.

Foolish bottom line
While this CAPS All-Star thinks you should avoid VIVUS, for a stock you don't have to avoid, check out this free report on "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012."

The article Avoid This Biotech Stock originally appeared on Fool.com.

The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.Dan Dzombakdid not have a position in any of the companies mentioned in this article.Pitches must be compelling, made in the past 30 days, and be at least 400 words.The Motley Fool owns shares of Dendreon. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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