Dendreon's Provenge sales off again, expected to miss for the year

Since its launch in 2010, investors have been waiting for Dendreon's ($DNDN) prostate cancer vaccine Provenge to get some traction in the U.S. market. But instead of getting any more traction in the last quarter, the drug has seen further backsliding.

Investors spanked the Seattle company severely in after-hours trading Thursday after it reported that sales of the drug were off 8% in the second quarter year-over-year to $73 million. The company said it didn't expect them to outperform last year's sales of $321.5 million. Shares fell as much as 14% after the markets closed and about the same in premarket trading today. The bad news came after Dendreon in the first quarter had reported a 17% drop in Provenge sales.  

Perhaps Mark Schoenebaum of ISI Group said it best in a note to investors: "Punch line here really is that Provenge just doesn't seem to be growing..."

So what is CEO John Johnson's solution, besides the fact the the CFO will leave at year end? Really just more of the same. In a call with analysts, he said the company will continue to push its direct-to-consumer advertising and keep educating docs about what a great therapy Provenge is. The company is in talks with partners for a launch in Europe. Provenge was recommended for approval in the EU in June. He also said Dendreon will further cut costs, primarily next year, but was vague about how that might be done. The company already has laid off hundreds of employees and sold a plant.

Dendreon has been struggling to get U.S. docs to use Provenge since its 2010 approval by the FDA. Its $93,000/year price and tough competition from Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) oral treatment Zytiga have made it a rough go. Dendreon already has tried a list of ways to pump up sales, and Johnson Thursday talked most about doing more of the same. It launched the DTC advertising campaign in March and has already remade its doctor-detailing program. Dendreon brought in Johnson last year to replace then-CEO Mitchell Gold, who had clouded the market by overpromising.

- here's the earnings release
- read a transcript of the earnings call

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