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Analyst downgrades Ironwood Pharma on expenses

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Cowen & Co. analyst downgraded shares of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc. Monday, citing the company's growing expenses and disappointing early sales of its bowel drug Linzess.

THE OPINION: Analyst Edward Nash said he doesn't expect Ironwood to be profitable until 2017 and he doesn't expect the stock to trade higher for now. Nash lowered his rating on Ironwood shares to "Neutral" from "Outperform."

Ironwood's only approved product is Linzess through a partnership with Forest Laboratories Inc. The drug was approved in 2012 as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome with constipation and for chronic constipation, and it has been on the market since December. Ironwood said first-quarter sales totaled $4.5 million. According to Nash, analysts expected $9.7 million, on average. Despite that, he said the launch of the drug has been "strong."

However the company said its total spending nearly doubled to $92.1 million as the Linzess launch brought about greater marketing costs. Its sales and administrative costs more than doubled, and costs related to collaborations rose by more than $20 million. Ironwood posted a wider quarterly loss and less revenue than analysts had expected.

Ironwood is running additional studies of Linzess to broaden its marketing approval and is also studying treatments for central nervous system disorders, gastrointestinal illnesses, and allergic conditions.

Ironwood completed a $175 million debt offering in January, and Nash said he thinks the Cambridge, Mass., company will raise more money by the end of the year.

THE STOCK: Shares of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals lost 9 cents to $14.52 in afternoon trading. The stock has lost 18 percent of its value since the company reported its first-quarter results on April 23.