Esperion drug lowers cholesterol in patients taking statins
PLYMOUTH – Esperion Therapeutics Inc said its experimental drug lowered LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels in patients who were already on statins, the current standard of care.
Esperion’s shares rose 19 percent to a record high of $91.50 on the Nasdaq.
The company has been developing ETC-1002 as an additional therapy to statins or as an option for patients who are intolerant to statins.
Statins have been the preferred first-line treatment for cholesterol for decades and many of them have gone generic.
Needham & Co analyst Chad Messer said he expects the drug to be adopted faster as an additional therapy to statins rather than replacing statins altogether.
There are about 35 million patients who take statins in the United States. Out of these, 30 percent still have cholesterol levels that are too high, Messer said.
“That is about 10 million patients, which is a huge market potential.”
Messer said he expects sales of about $1.22 billion from ETC-1002 as an additional therapy to statins by 2025. He expects sales of $1.65 billion from patients unable to tolerate statin drugs.
Esperion announced results from another mid-stage trial in October, where the same drug lowered LDL levels significantly than Merck & Co Inc’s Zetia.
Zetia’s 2014 sales worldwide were about $2.7 billion.
ETC-1002 is the first in a new class of drugs called ACL inhibitors that work by reducing cholesterol synthesis in the liver and increasing occurrence of LDL receptors that remove cholesterol from the blood.
Patients taking doses of 120 mg and 180 mg of the drug showed 17 percent and 24 percent greater reduction in LDL cholesterol levels than a placebo.
The LDL-lowering power of the drug is about half that of the new injectable biotech cholesterol drugs, called PCSK9 inhibitors.
Compared with PCSK9 drugs, ETC-1002 is not only cheaper but also more convenient for patients, Messer said.
“It is not a shot, so for your average patient ETC-1002 is an easy oral therapy,” he said.
“Only patients with severe cholesterol problems will take a shot and an expensive one at that.”
Shares of Esperion, which said it would want a partner to commercialize the drug outside the United States, were up 16.3 percent at $89.88.
About 2.9 million shares were traded by 12:15 pm ET, more than five times the stock’s 10-day moving average. – Reuters