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Optimer Pharma’s first quarter 2012 net loss (excluding special items) of 73 cents per share compared unfavorably with the year-ago earnings of $1.04 and the Zacks Consensus loss Estimate of 38 cents per share. Lower revenues and higher costs hurt results during the first quarter of 2012.

Revenues in the first quarter of 2012 came in at $14.4 million as opposed to $69.3 million in the year-ago quarter. We note that revenues in the year-ago quarter were boosted by the receipt of $69.2 million as upfront milestone payment from Optimer’s partner Astellas Pharma regarding Optimer’s sole marketed drug Dificid/Dificlir.

We remind investors that Dificid was launched in the U.S. in July 2011 for treating patients suffering from clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD)-the most common form of nosocomial, or hospital acquired, diarrhea. Net sales of the drug came in at $14.4 million in the first quarter of 2012, up 31% sequentially. Dificid was approved in the European Union (E.U.) under the trade name, Dificlir, in December 2011. Revenues were well short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $30 million.

We note that Optimer has an exclusive two-year agreement with Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST - Analyst Report) (through July 2013) to co-promote Dificid in the U.S. for the treatment of CDAD.

Both selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses (up 116%) and research & development (R&D) expenses (up 32%) were on the upswing during the reported quarter. The massive increase in SG&A expenses was primarily attributable to the costs incurred by Optimer towards the marketing of Dificid. The increase in R&D expenses was attributable to higher publication and other expenses pertaining to the Dificid’s marketing.

Our Recommendation

Currently, we have a Neutral stance on Optimer  in the long run. The company carries a Zacks #2 Rank (“Buy” rating) in the short run.

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