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Optimer shares rise on Dificid sales growth

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc. jumped 10 percent Monday after the drug developer said its fourth-quarter sales of a key drug rose 14 percent from third-quarter levels.

THE SPARK: Optimer said fourth-quarter U.S. and Canadian gross product sales of the antibacterial drug Dificid totaled $21.3 million. For the full year, gross product sales totaled $74.4 million, up from $24.4 million the year before. The drug launched in July 2011.

THE BIG PICTURE: Dificid is a treatment for Clostridium difficile, an infection that usually affects older patients and can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to potentially life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug in May 2011. It's also approved in Europe and is sold through a partnership with Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma.

In October, the company announced plans to cut the price of Dificid for hospitals by 25 percent. The company said Dificid is effective but hospitals have been deterred from using the drug because of its high cost, and the price cut will help its sales.

Optimer said Monday that increased the wholesale acquisition cost of the drug by about 5.6 percent, effective Jan. 3. But it added that for hospitals, which already receive the 25 percent discount, the price increase will be offset through an additional discount, keeping the net price the same.

The company also said Monday that it will launch a co-pay assistance program for commercially insured patients that will provide up to $200 toward a patient's out of pocket cost for one prescription of up to 20 tablets per calendar year.  

THE SHARES: Up 96 cents, or 10 percent, to $10.21 in afternoon trading, after peaking at $10.28 earlier in the day. Over the past 52 weeks, the company's shares have traded between $8.64 and $16.49.

During 2012, Optimer shares lost about 26 percent of their value.