Forest gets FDA nod as tussle with Icahn heats up

Forest Laboratories ($FRX) has a new weapon in its Carl Icahn-fighting arsenal. The FDA approved its new lung drug Tudorza Pressair, an inhaled treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The agency nod couldn't have come at a better time; the company is in the midst of a proxy fight with the activist investor, and just a couple of weeks remain before its annual meeting.

Trouble is, Tudorza is more of a hand grenade than an RPG. Analysts estimates for 2015 sales average about $250 million, Reuters reports, with Sanford Bernstein eyeing $164 million. And that won't go far toward its target: Filling the sales gap left by the newly off-patent antidepressant Lexapro.

It's a big task. For the second quarter, Lexapro sales plummeted to $110 million from $585.7 million during the same period last year. Till the drug's exclusivity expired in March, it accounted for almost half of Forest's $4.5 billion in fiscal 2012 sales. And on top of that, Forest's second-biggest seller, the Alzheimer's drug Namenda, loses exclusivity in 2015. And Namenda brought in $1.4 billion last year.

Forest has several newer drugs it's counting on for help, and several in its near-term pipeline. In an investor presentation released earlier today--designed to bolster its case against Icahn's board nominees--the company said it's looking for 15% annual growth in sales over the next several years, aided by new launches.

Icahn issued his own letter, however, questioning Forest's ability to make up the lost sales. "It appears to me that Forest was completely unprepared for the Lexapro patent cliff," Icahn wrote (as quoted by Reuters). We'll see what shareholders think soon; the annual meeting is scheduled for Aug. 15.

- get the release from FDA
- read the Forest statement
- see the Reuters news

Related Articles:
Forest independents immediately tell Carl Icahn no
Failing with Forest CEO, Icahn presses non-exec directors to compromise
Forest outpaces major league rivals in race for a COPD drug approval