Mallinckrodt investors stream for the exits as opioid-tied bankruptcy talk mounts

Investors are acting spooked as Mallinckrodt reportedly considers bankruptcy in the event of a major opioid settlement. (Pixabay)

Every day seems like a new test for Mallinckrodt investors: Consider last month, when Humana took the company to court for $700 million in fraudulent billing. But now, with Mallinckrodt reportedly talking bankruptcy if federal opioid penalties balloon out of control, it could be the last straw.

Shares of the U.K. drugmaker careened to $1.44 per share in late trading Wednesday on the heels of a Bloomberg report that Mallinckrodt hired two firms to walk through bankruptcy options as a federal opioid lawsuit roundup approaches trial next month.

On Wednesday, sources told Bloomberg that Mallinckrodt hired law firm Latham & Watkins and turnaround firm AlixPartners as it considers its options with a potential multibillion settlement in the cards.

A Mallinckrodt spokesman declined to comment.

The 44% one-day drop was precipitous, but it's only a fraction of the value Mallinckrodt has lost in recent months as scandals and lawsuits took their toll. Year to date, the company’s share price has crumbled from a high of $33.71—a more than 95% freefall.

RELATED: Endo's $10M opioid deal could help other drugmakers 'out of the woods': analysts

Mallinckrodt is one of a suite of drugmakers named in multidistrict opioid litigation involving more than 2,000 cities and counties filed in federal court in Cleveland.

On Aug. 28, Mallinckrodt borrowed the last $95 million in its revolving credit facility, which will provide “increased liquidity to Mallinckrodt for general business purposes and to address cash needs that may arise in the future,” the drugmaker said in an SEC filing. According to Bloomberg, that credit could be used as a cash payment in the event of a federal settlement.

A federal opioid trial isn’t Mallinckrodt's only worry, either.

RELATED: Humana calls Mallinckrodt's Acthar a 'billion-dollar golden goose' in $700M fraud lawsuit

In mid-August, major insurer Humana sued in a California federal court, claiming it had overpaid for Mallinckrodt’s H.P. Acthar Gel by $700 million because of the company’s widespread campaign to stifle competition and pay doctors and patients to choose the pricey med.

Humana accused Mallinckrodt of a “complex, multipart scheme involving monopoly, bribery, racketeering, fraud and other deceptive and unfair practices” to fuel the drug’s skyrocketing price increases and induce physicians to boost prescriptions.

Mallinckrodt acquired Acthar in 2014 as part of its $5.6 billion Questcor purchase, which mired the company in legal problems since its buyout. In early June, the drugmaker reached a $15.4 million settlement with the DOJ to wrap up one leg of its Acthar probe—only to face a new round of indictments the same day.

RELATED: Mallinckrodt postpones split-up plan as opioid lawsuits cloud spinoff's future

The uncertainty around the opioid litigation has also thwarted the company’s attempts to remake its image, at least so far. The drugmaker postponed its plan to spin off its specialty generics business—and send its name along with it.

That now-delayed plan would create a new company under the Mallinckrodt moniker, consisting of its generic oxycodone; active pharmaceutical ingredients; and the constipation drug Amitiza. What's left over—the company's specialty brands, including H.P. Acthar Gel—would operate under a new, as-yet-undetermined name and without the burden of potentially hefty opioid penalties.

“Mallinckrodt continues to actively consider a range of options intended to lead to the ultimate separation of the Specialty Generics business, consistent with its previously stated strategy,” the company said in early August.