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Wider-than-Expected Loss at Optimer

Zacks Equity Research

Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s (OPTR) first quarter 2013 net loss (excluding special items) of 65 cents per share was wider than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 42 cents but narrower than the year-ago loss of 73 cents per share. Lower-than-expected revenues were primarily responsible for the wider-than-expected loss incurred by the company in the first quarter of 2013.

Revenues in the first quarter of 2013 came in at $19.4 million, up 35.1% from the year-ago quarter. The increase was primarily due to higher Dificid sales. Revenues, however, missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $21 million.

Quarter in Details

Revenues in the reported quarter included Dificid sales in the US and Canada along with contract revenue of $2.5 million under the company’s collaboration agreements with companies like Astellas Pharma, Inc. (ALPMY), AstraZeneca (AZN) and Specialized Therapeutics Australia, Pty. Ltd.

We remind investors that Dificid, Optimer’s sole marketed product, was launched in the US in Jul 2011 for treating patients suffering from clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (:CDAD) -- the most common form of nosocomial, or hospital acquired, diarrhea. Dificid was launched in Canada in Jun 2012. Net sales of the drug shot up 16.7% to $16.8 million in the reported quarter. The increase was primarily attributable to higher demand along with a 5.6% price increase which was effective from Jan 2013.

Dificid was approved in the EU under the trade name, Dificlir, in Dec 2011. Last month the drug was also approved in Australia for the treatment of confirmed clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in adults. Dificid is expected to be launched in Australia shortly.

We note that Optimer has an exclusive two-year agreement (through Jul 2013) with Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST) to co-promote Dificid in the US for the treatment of CDAD. Co-promotion expenses amounted to $3.8 million during the first quarter of 2013, compared with $10.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

Optimer is planning to expand Dificid’s label. The company is currently running a phase IIIb study evaluating the prophylactic use of Dificid in patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation or hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Optimer expects an interim analysis on the study in the latter half of the year. Optimer is also conducting a phase IIa study evaluating the pharmacokinetics of Dificid in pediatrics.

Selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses during the reported quarter were up 33.2% to $34 million. However, research & development (R&D) expenses were down 10.7% to $9.9 million during the period.

Optimer currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Meanwhile, Cubist Pharma carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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