NPS begins to rack up sales of pricey SBS drug

NPS Pharmaceuticals ($NPSP) racked up the first quarterly score on its $295,000-a-year treatment for short bowel syndrome, claiming early traction for Gattex. To be sure, the numbers are small: 42 patients and 160 prescriptions in Q1. But NPS CEO Francois Nader said the company is on track to get the first 200 to 300 patients signed up by the end of this year as its sales force begins to penetrate a small U.S. market of just a few thousand.

NPS lost $7.8 million in the quarter, compared with a $10.2 million loss in the same period a year ago. Its revenue included $654,000 for Gattex prescriptions. Overall revenue was up, but the numbers fell shy of Wall Street's projections. Nevertheless, the stock was up about 6% in mid-morning trading.

Drug developers have been pushing the envelope on pricing for rare disease drugs, making Gattex a test case for just how high a price can go. To keep patients in the fold, Nader said NPS reimbursed patients for any out-of-pocket expenses over $10 a month. Co-pays have been running at about $200 a month.

"So far so very good," said Nader. Payers recognize the value, he added, with no final denials for anyone who got a prescription. "We also had an opportunity to meet and sit down with a number of payers," he said. "The price has not been a hurdle." NPS fielded a sales force of 38 to launch Gattex, including 27 sales reps.

Back in March, NPS regained full worldwide rights to Gattex, also known as teduglutide, and to Natpara, its yet-to-be-approved product, recombinant human parathyroid hormone 1-84 (PTH 1-84). NPS won back the ex-U.S. market for those drugs after paying Takeda $50 million in stock. And NPS has been in discussion with regulators about its strategy for gaining approval to use Gattex in a pediatric setting.

Nader added that the NPS team is confident they can go ahead and file for approval of Natpara in the second half of this year. The company completed its final human factors/usability testing of the Natpara injection pen device for hypoparathyroidism, and Nader said the company has been able to meet with the FDA and discuss its progress.

- here's the press release

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