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Akebia Shares Climb on Positive Anemia Drug Study Results

Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. (AKBA) is vying with several other pharma companies to bring potentially game-changing treatments for kidney dialysis patients.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company substantially improved its position in the hotly contested race when it reported success in the first of two large phase 3 studies of its anemia drug vadadustat in adults with damaged kidneys. Akebia's shares shot up 35% when it announced results of the study; it currently trades at more than $11.50. Vadadustat showed to be just as effective as the standard of care at boosting hemoglobin levels, and patients on it had numerically fewer heart attacks and strokes, a key safety goal according to an article in BioPharma Dive.

For years, chronic kidney disease patients with anemia have been treated with injectable drugs like Epogen and Aranesp from Amgen (AMGN), which have generated billions in sales, but these don't work for everyone and can cause serious heart issues.

The next few years should bring significant changes in treatment as Akebia, along with FibroGen Inc. (FGEN), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and others, introduce medications in the more convenient pill form that could potentially be safer current treatment options.


FibroGen's roxadustat is already approved in China and Japan and may get the okay from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by year's end. The company has also filed for approval in Europe. Of course, which of the new treatments proves superior won't be known until they're in widespread use in the U.S. and Europe.

Akebia shares rights to vadadustat with the pharmaceutical unit of Otsuka Holdings Co Ltd. (OTSKY) and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. (MTZPY).

During the first quarter, Akebia reported a net loss of $0.47 per share versus the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of $0.63 per share. Revenues were nearly $89 million, which beat the Zacks estimate by more than 14%. A year earlier, Akebia revenues were nearly $73 million.

As reported in GuruFocus, the Baupost Group's Seth Klarman (Trades, Portfolio) cut his stake in Akebia by more than 10% in March, or more than 2 million shares. On May 6, Smarter Analyst reported that Morgan Stanley analyst David Lebovitz maintained a Hold rating on the company, setting a price target of $11. The general consensus has set Akebia as a Moderate Buy with an average price target of $15.43.

Disclosure: The author holds a position in Amgen

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This article first appeared on GuruFocus.