Why is ThromboGenics' strategic review urgent? Just look at recent Jetrea sales

Courtesy of ThromboGenics

ThromboGenics admitted last month that slow U.S. sales of its lead drug had put it into a quandary. What could it do to turn the tide? Explore strategic options. Now, the company says sales lagged further for the second half of 2013.

U.S. sales of its eye drug Jetrea, a treatment for vitreomacular adhesion (VMA), came in at just €20.2 million for the full year, or about $28.1 million. Approved in October 2012, Jetrea delivered €12.2 million in sales for the first half, Reuters notes. And that means the second half amounted to just €8 million ($11.1 million).

The problem doesn't lie with the size of the market; the company says about 250,000 patients a year develop symptomatic VMA, and only 7,000 used Jetrea in 2013. Because of the size of the market and dearth of treatment options, analysts figure Jetrea could hit $500 million in sales in the U.S. Meanwhile, ThromboGenics' marketing partner for ex-U.S. sales, Novartis's ($NVS) Alcon unit, sold enough to warrant €1 million in royalty payments last. The drug was approved just last March to treat vitreomacular traction (VMT) in Europe.

ThromboGenics has reorganized its U.S. operations and worked out a reimbursement code for the drug. But it clearly needs help on the marketing side. The company acknowledged that in today's earnings release, if obliquely: "2013 was a learning year," the company said, in a bit of an understatement. "It is clear that ThromboGenics is not just introducing a new product. It is in fact creating a new standard of care, which is a more challenging goal."

Hence the strategic review. Whether that means bringing on a marketing partner--or something more drastic, such as selling the company--remains to be seen. ThromboGenics' latest statement about the review sounds rather open-minded, alluding as it does to R&D: It's looking to increase its "ability to realize the significant commercial potential of Jetrea in the U.S., and to fully capitalize on the company's proven product development capabilities." Morgan Stanley is helping ThromboGenics sift through its options.

- get the release from ThromboGenics
- read the Reuters news

Special Report: FDA Approvals of 2012 - Jetrea