Amylin Fourth-Quarter Byetta Sales Drop, Falling Short of Wall Street Estimates

Amylin Pharmaceuticals saw some dark days last fall, and now we can see it in its fourth-quarter earnings report. The San Diego-based biotech company said today sales of its biggest product, exenatide (Byetta) for diabetes, fell almost 8 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

Amylin (NASDAQ: AMLN) said after markets closed that the diabetes drug generated $162.7 million in sales in the fourth quarter, down from $176.3 million a year ago. The drug still accounts for about 84 percent of Amylin’s total product sales, so any swing in demand is bound to have a huge affect on the company as a whole. Byetta’s sales fell short of Wall Street’s expectations, which were for $172 million in the quarter, according to Jason Butler, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw, in a note to clients today.

Demand for the product has been declining since August, when the FDA warned physicians about several cases of pancreatitis that have been reported in patients taking exenatide, including two deaths. Amylin has been trying to persuade doctors that the data doesn’t show exenatide causes the condition, but it hasn’t been enough to keep sales growing. In November, Amylin responded by cutting costs and reducing its workforce about 25 percent by eliminating 340 jobs.

Amylin, which isn’t profitable, insists it wants to be cash-flow positive by the end of 2010. To help get there, it slashed spending on research and development by 20 percent in the fourth quarter, to $67 million. Expenses for sales, general and administration were cut even deeper, 30 percent, to $86.1 million.

Amylin says it is still moving ahead with plans to file a new drug application for a new version of exenatide that will allow patients to take one injection a week instead of the current regimen of two shots a day. Amylin says it had $816.8 million in cash and investments on hand at the end of the year.

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