JPM: With Vascepa's U.S. expansion rolling, Amarin CEO holds off partner offers in EU

Amarin Vascepa box
Amarin nabbed an FDA approval as a heart-helping add-on to statins in December. (Amarin)

Amarin is revving up to launch Vascepa into a market that could spell multibillion-dollar sales, and thanks to a major flop by AstraZeneca's would-be rival, Epanova—and a similar setback for Acasti Pharma—that U.S. launch has a runway clear of competitors.

It's exactly the scenario the fish-oil derivative has been waiting for. "This is the opportunity we set out to conquer when we started a decade ago," CEO John Thero said Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. 

Vascepa will now launch as the only drug approved to lower the risk of cardiovascular events as an add-on to statin therapy after the FDA approved the likely blockbuster label expansion in December. And a lack of serious competition could leave some "white space" for Vascepa to outgrow its current peak sales estimate of $3 billion to $4 billion each year, Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said in a note to investors Monday.

Apparently, some would-be partners would like a piece of those sales. Amarin has been approached by multiple drugmakers looking to license Vascepa in Europe, where it's awaiting a CV nod, Thero said. But he's not interested—or at least not yet. 

"It’s still a bit premature to get too far along in these conversations as we think the value will increase as the regulatory process proceeds in Europe," he said. 

RELATED: AstraZeneca's Epanova flunks key heart risk trial, giving Amarin's rival Vascepa a leg up