At least 19 dead patients. Liver failures. A 25 percent stock drop.
That’s not as bad as it sounds for Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc., at least according to several Wall Street analysts.
“We see current stock reaction to the news as overblown,” said Michael Yee, an analyst at Jefferies wrote after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that 19 patients on Intercept’s drug had died. Many may have been on excessive doses of the drug, the agency said.
“We continue to recommend buying shares,” Yee said.
Later Thursday, another analyst said he too was sticking by Intercept’s stock. That was despite his own research that had found what he said were seven more patients deaths, bringing the tally to 26. The FDA warning, wrote Baird Equity Research’s Brian Skorney, “yields nothing that we believe is of concern, considering the characteristics of these patients.”
To some extent, that’s Wall Street. Investors are looking for opportunities to buy stocks when they’re undervalued. And despite the grim news, both Yee and Skorney said there’s still plenty of possibility for the drug, which is being studied in patients with a milder liver disease.
“It’s definitely tone deaf. I don’t disagree with that,” Skorney said in a telephone interview. “Trading stocks is not very sensitive to patient health.”
According to Skorney’s estimate, about 1 in 200 of the patients on the drug have died. He recommended buying the shares.
The stock drop Thursday is unwarranted because the patients who died were particularly unsuited to the drug, Skorney said, and future patients with other disease won’t be. Even if the company only captures a fraction of the available treatment population, the shares are undervalued where they’re trading now, he said.
“The question is, is Ocaliva safe at an exposure level that’s efficacious,” Skorney said. “You want to try to figure out a dose that’s safe.”
Yee also said that many of the patients that died were extremely sick and vulnerable, and getting too much of the medicine. The drug, Ocaliva, has a warning on its label about using the proper dose — though not a “black box” warning, the most severe the FDA can put on a medication. In the warning by the agency Thursday, it didn’t say it was updating the content.
“If there was a problem, don’t you think they would revise the label?” Yee said. “I think the natural reaction from doctors will be to take extra consideration.”
Intercept said it was reviewing the FDA’s warning.