This News Should Get Your Blood Pumping


ABIOMED shareholders, you've just been given clearance to breathe a sigh of relief.

Following the close of the bell yesterday, ABIOMED released a statement announcing that U.S. regulators had closed a 20-month-long investigation into the company's marketing and promotion practices of the Impella Recover LP 2.5 Percutaneous Cardiac Support System.

Regulators had honed in on what it considered to be unapproved claims regarding the Impella 2.5's usage time frame, which was set at six hours or less and in only certain instances, and based on comparisons the company had made that its blood-pumping device was superior to other technology on the market. While no specifics were detailed as to how ABIOMED remedied the FDA's requests originally sent in June 2011, it nonetheless resulted in the closure of the investigation.

This might appear to be another ho-hum moment, but it actually should get investors' blood flowing again. U.S. regulatory investigations can sometimes end with incredible tough financial damages levied against the accused company, or can dramatically drag down a company's share price.

Health-care conglomerate Johnson & Johnson paid the second-highest settlement ever levied by U.S. regulators against a pharmaceutical company last June -- $2.2 billion. The scope of the case had to do with J&J's marketing of anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal, as well as two other drugs.

Similarly, Amgen paid a hefty $780 million settlement of its own in October 2011 stemming from the marketing, dosing, and pricing of Aranesp and Epogen, as well as clinical trial information disseminated about these drugs.

Sometimes it doesn't take a fine, but the sheer overhang of an investigation to do the damage. Questcor Pharmaceuticals , which supplies Acthar gel for more than a dozen diseases, is currently being probed by the U.S. government for its marketing practices. Specifically, it appears questionable to regulators why the drug carries a $23,000 price per vial across all 19 of its indications despite having orphan drug status that protects it from competition. Shares of Questcor are down about 50% from their 52-week high.

For ABIOMED, this means the investigatory cloud has been lifted, and it can focus entirely on its heart device line. ABIOMED's most recent quarterly results highlighted a 19% increase in sales to $38.3 million, with Impella devices accounting for 87.5% of sales and demonstrating 21% growth. ABIOMED isn't exactly cheap at 30 times forward earnings, but with the stock plunging better than 30% at one point last year because of the investigation, it could have some moderate upside potential.

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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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