This Week in Biotech: Part 2

Consider this the continuation of what's been an incredibly busy week for biotech companies in terms of news and studies. In the first part of this weekly review, we took a look at this week's positive stories. But as we know all too well, the biotech sector is often fraught with just as many losers as winners. Here's the skinny on a few noteworthy stories that may have slipped under your radar with the elections occurring this week.

Microcap Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners (NAS: CPRX) more than lived up to its name this week after reporting mid-stage results on its cocaine de-addiction drug, CPP-109. The results, however, failed to live up to investors' hopes as the drug failed to meet its primary endpoint. Not only did the drug not prove more effective than the placebo treatment, but it also failed to meet two secondary goals, which were to produce more negative urine tests for cocaine and reduce days of use of the cocaine in patients given CPP-109. Shares plummeted 70% on the week.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (NAS: BCRX) also couldn't win for trying, falling an additional 41% this week after plunging 37% last week. Following the withdrawal of its drug application for BCX5191 for the treatment of hepatitis-C last week, BioCryst, after the bell on Wednesday, released disappointing late-stage data on its influenza drug, Peramivir. Ultimately, the difference between the primary endpoint for those treated with Peramivir and the control group was very small, subsequently meriting a recommendation from the independent data monitoring committee that the study be discontinued because of futility. BioCryst is quickly running out of drugs in its pipeline.

Placenta-based cell therapy developer Pluristem Therapeutics (NAS: PSTI) also had a wild week, though much less severe than either Catalyst or BioCryst after an article published by Bloomberg alleged that a 7-year old girl with bone-marrow cancer who had received its PLX cell treatment had died. Pluristem responded to the report by noting that the girl was treated on a compassionate-use basis and that no clinical data or follow-up was done, nor was she a part of any ongoing clinical trials. Needless to say, I can't wait until we receive actual clinical data from Pluristem on its PLX cell therapy so we can put these allegations to rest.

Lastly, it wouldn't be a week unless we once again highlighted the struggles of VIVUS (NAS: VVUS) and its fat-busting drug, Qsymia. Sending shares screaming lower this week was VIVUS' third-quarter earnings results, which highlighted a pitiful $41,000 in sales of Qsymia (roughly equivalent to about 650 prescriptions) versus expectations that were considerably higher by most analysts. VIVUS cited the fact that patients are paying much of Qsymia's cost out of pocket as one of the primary reasons sales limped out of the gate.

If anything, this proves even more why it's more important than ever for smaller and inexperienced companies to partner with large pharmaceutical companies to assist with marketing. Arena Pharmaceuticals (NAS: ARNA) has yet to begin selling its anti-obesity drug, Belviq, as of yet; however, I fully expect its sales to rise much more rapidly, as its marketing partner, Eisai, has considerably more marketing experience with drug launches than VIVUS' team does.

End of the road?
Are VIVUS' weak Qsymia sales figures an indication that it needs to partner up, or can it survive as a standalone company? Find out the answer to this question and much more by getting your copy of our latest premium research report on VIVUS. Packed with in-depth analysis on the opportunities and threats facing VIVUS -- and complete with a year of regular updates -- this report will give you the tools needed to make smart long-term investing decisions.

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