Aratana scores third FDA approval of the year for canine pain drug

Aratana's Nocita relieves pain in dogs after ligament surgery.

Shares of Aratana Therapeutics ($PETX) rose more than 3% to $9.75 in after-hours trading on August 15, when the company announced that the FDA approved Nocita (bupivacaine), its long-acting injectable drug to relieve pain in dogs after ligament surgery. The drug will be available this fall, Aratana said in a press release.

It was the third FDA approval for Aratana this year. The company also got the green light for Galliprant (grapiprant), an osteoarthritis drug it will co-market with Eli Lilly’s ($LLY) Elanco animal health unit, and for Entyce (capromorelin), an appetite stimulator for dogs that it plans to launch next year.

Nocita, then, will be the first real test of Aratana’s newly built-up sales organization. During the second quarter, the company’s sales, general and administrative costs grew 24% year-over-year to $6.1 million, as it hired national and regional sales managers and prepared to add two dozen reps. Aratana CEO Steven St. Peter warned investors that he expected sales expenses to continue to rise as the company prepared for three product launches in quick succession.

Nocita is designed to be given to dogs immediately after ligament surgery and to provide pain relief for 72 hours. Aratana originally licensed the drug from Pacira Pharmaceuticals ($PCRX), which makes a bupivacaine injection for use in people. It is because of that relationship that Aratana is able to ramp up production and sales so quickly, the company has said in the past.

Although the Nocita introduction will be seen as good news on Wall Street, investors have been focusing most of their attention on Galliprant, which will be entering a large and growing market for treating arthritis pain in dogs. During a conference call with analysts after the second-quarter earnings release, St. Peter couldn’t provide many details about the timing of the launch, saying only he was happy with Elanco’s progress and “very pleased” with the resources it has devoted to the product.

The company has also said little about the pricing of its three new products. But analysts clearly have high hopes for the trio: They’re expecting Aratana to report up to $45.3 million in sales this year and to chart at least 25% sales growth next year, on average, according to Thomson Reuters.

- here’s the press release

Related articles:
Aratana promises full transition to commercial entity after strong Q2
Aratana prepares for shift from R&D house to commercial operation
Aratana nearing goal of third FDA approval this year