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Amarin gets sales staff and financing for Vascepa

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) -- Amarin Corp. PLC says it has secured new financing and will hire sales staff to get its fish-oil drug to market.

The news sent shares of the pharmaceutical company down 21 percent in after-hours trading as investors took it to indicate a sale of Amarin's business to a larger drugmaker is less likely. With Thursday's announcement, it appears more likely it will begin marketing its triglyceride drug Vascepa on its own.

Vascepa is a prescription form of fish oil designed to lower triglycerides, a type of fat in the bloodstream. The Food and Drug Administration approved Vascepa in July for patients with unusually high triglycerides. After the approval, Amarin said it would consider three options: selling itself to another drug company, launching Vascepa through a partnership with another company or bringing the drug to market on its own.

Amarin expects the launch of Vascepa in early 2013. However, the FDA is still determining whether to grant the pill status as a first-of-a-kind drug, which would give it five years of protection from competition.

Some investors and analysts had hoped that Vascepa's potential would lure a potential buyer but that looks less likely now.

The company said Thursday that it is hiring 250 to 300 sales professionals to sell the drug. It also said it is hiring other key personnel, develop advertising and building up its inventory in anticipation of a launch.

Amarin has secured $100 million non-equity financing with an investment fund managed by Pharmakon Advisors.

CEO and Chairman Joseph Zakrzewski said the funding deal gives Amarin "maximum flexibility" by providing it capital to prepare for the launch while it continues discussions for strategic partnerships.

Amarin said it is still weighing the same three paths to commercializing the drug — acquisition, collaboration or going it alone, the latter requiring outside help to complete.

Shares tumbled $2.54 to $9.41 in after-hours trading on the news. Its stock fell 9 cents to close regular trading at $11.95.