New osteoarthritis drug Vimovo is now available in nine global markets and it generated second-quarter revenue of $6.3 million — more than double Vimovo’s sales in the first quarter of this year.
But Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Pozen (NASDAQ:POZN) believes that sales for the drug that it developed with drug partner AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) are not enough. Pozen will hire an independent company to evaluate market acceptance of Vimovo and future prospects of the drug.
“We are concerned about its under performance and are perplexed by it,” Pozen Chief Commercial Officer Liz Cermak told analysts during a conference call to discuss second-quarter results. “We want to understand what Vimovo is doing in the marketplace and what are the key challenges. We will share that with our partner.”
Cermak noted that while Vimovo’s sales in the first half of 2011 totaled $10.1 million, that came with the launch of the drug in five additional European countries in the second quarter. Pozen’s share of Vimovo revenue, which comes in the form of royalty payments from AstraZeneca, totaled just $600,000 in the second quarter.
Vimovo combines the delayed-release pain reliever naproxen with AstraZeneca’s esomeprazole, the heartburn and acid reflux drug marketed as Nexium. The combination drug, approved in Europe last year, aims to bring to the 151 million osteoarthritis patients worldwide the pain relief of naproxen in a form that poses less risk of producing gastric ulcers.
The market for arthritis drugs was an estimated $2.7 billion in 2010. Pozen and AstraZeneca are currently suing to block generic competitor Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories from tapping into that market with its version of Vimovo. The drug’s patent expires in 2023.
In second-quarter financial results released Thursday, Pozen reported net loss of $6.4 million compared to net income of $16.2 million a year ago. Revenue in the quarter was $4.6 million, down 83.6 percent from $28.2 million in the same period a year ago, attributed primarily to the milestone payment last year from drug partner AstraZeneca that infused Pozen with $20 million.
Until Vimovo sales pick up, Pozen’s biggest revenue generator remains Treximet, a migraine drug that the company developed with drug partner GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK). Treximet royalties brought Pozen about $4 million in revenue in the second quarter.
Pozen is also developing PA32540, an aspirin combination drug candidate being studied as a way to bring patients the cardiovascular benefits of aspirin in a form that’s easier on the stomach. Late-stage clinical trial results for PA32450 are expected in the first half of 2012. Cermak said Pozen expects to have a brand name for the drug by the end of this year.