Anemia woes hack $1.5B off Amgen sales

No question Amgen has been laboring through a rough patch. Ever since safety questions started taking their toll on blockbuster anemia meds Aranesp and Epogen, the company has been scrambling to compensate. Amgen went through a major restructuring last year that literally decimated its work force; the company cut 2,000 jobs, 10 percent of its overall employment.

Now, CEO Kevin Sharer (photo) says he sees those anemia drugs hitting bottom early next year. The financial side effects of their safety problems--including warnings that they may accelerate tumor growth in cancer patients--should taper off during the first half of 2009, Sharer told the Wall Street Journal. Those and other warnings, plus cuts in Medicare reimbursement, have cut some $1.5 billion out of Amgen's annual revenue picture, Sharer said.

At an analyst meeting today in New York, Sharer plans to announce that Amgen is poised to emerge "healthy" from this tough period, the WSJ reports. Though a bottoming-out in anemia-drug troubles is key to that health, so is the eventual approval of Amgen's leading new candidate, the bone drug denosumab. According to Sharer, Amgen is poised to be "among the top three in revenue growth and earnings growth" in the industry over the next five years.

- read the WSJ article

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