NEW YORK (AP) -- Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. shares rose Monday after a JPMorgan analyst upgraded the stock, forecasting greater sales for its cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco and an experimental treatment called VX-809.
THE SPARK: Analyst Geoff Meacham raised his rating to "Overweight" from "Neutral" and boosted his price target for the shares to $82 from $45, saying he was "a bit late" in making the changes. Meacham now expects sales of Kalydeco to reach $150 million in in 2012, up slightly from his previous estimate of $145 million.
He expects greater growth in coming years, with Kalydeco revenue reaching $982 million worldwide by 2015, up from his prior projection of $749 million. In 2015 Meacham expects Vertex to get another $194 million in revenue from VX-809.
But he expects the decline in sales of Vertex's hepatitis C drug Incivek to accelerate in the face of new competition and cut his estimate for each of the next four years. For 2012, he still expects more than $1.3 billion in U.S. sales of Incivek, and about $800 million in other markets. Johnson & Johnson sells Incivek in Europe and certain other markets, and makes royalty payments to Vertex. He now projects no U.S. revenue for Incivek in 2015.
The drug was approved in May 2011, but analysts expect it to be surpassed in a few years by more effective treatments that are easier to take and have fewer side effects.
THE BIG PICTURE: The Food and Drug Administration approved Kalydeco on Jan. 31 as a treatment for a rare type of cystic fibrosis, a disorder that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and other organs. Before the markets opened on May 7, Vertex said a combination of Kalydeco and VX-809 was more effective than expected in a mid-stage clinical trial. That trail tested the drug cocktail as a combination for the most common type of the cystic fibrosis.
SHARE ACTION: Vertex shares rose $2.68, or 4.3 percent, to end trading at $64.70 on Monday. During the day, they touched an all-time high of $65.37. Shares of Vertex Pharmaceuticals have surged 73 percent in the past week. They traded as low as $26.50 in December.