United Therapeutics pares loss, and its battered shares leap 23%

August 09, 2002|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

United Therapeutics Corp. shares gained 23 percent yesterday after the company reported substantially smaller second-quarter losses and said its just-approved drug is selling at a rate of $25 million a year.

The Silver Spring company said it would have been profitable except for losses incurred in its bond-market investments, necessitating a $3.6 million write-down.

The maker of Remodulin, a treatment for the life-threatening disease of pulmonary hypertension, reported a net loss of $3.2 million, or 16 cents a share. It posted a loss of $10.6 million, or 53 cents a share, for last year's second quarter.

Revenue rose nearly nine-fold to $11.6 million from $1.3 million a year earlier. The majority of the revenue came from sales of Remodulin and related infusion pumps and supplies to the company's two U.S. distributors, said Chief Financial Officer Fred Hadeed.

"Everyone at United Therapeutics is extremely jazzed" about the results, Chief Executive Officer Martine Rothblatt said yesterday during a conference call with investors.

Shares rose $2.57 to $13.43 on the Nasdaq stock market but remain far below the $132 at which they traded in July 2000.

Remodulin, the company's first drug on the market, is designed to treat a disease that causes severe fatigue and other symptoms in an estimated 50,000 people in Europe and North America. Most cases are undiagnosed, the company has said.

The drug, which was approved in May, is continually pumped from a wearable "cassette" through a needle placed under a patient's skin. Remodulin competes with Glaxo- SmithKline's intravenously administered Flolan - on the market since 1994 - and Actelion Ltd.'s recently approved Tracleer pill.

Despite the competition and a relatively small market, Roth- blatt expressed optimism yesterday that Remodulin could take away market share from Flolan and offer strong competition for Tracleer, which she said is proving ineffective in many patients. The company is marketing Remodulin as an easier-to-use and safer alternative to Flolan, which must be kept refrigerated, worn in what amounts to a backpack and continually infused via a catheter directly into the heart.

Five hundred patients worldwide take Remodulin. About half of them remained on the drug after taking it during clinical trials.

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