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Narrower Loss at Optimer

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Optimer Pharma’s third quarter 2012 net loss (excluding special items) of 56 cent per share was narrower than the year-ago loss of 57 cents per share and the Zacks Consensus loss Estimate of 64 cents. Higher revenues led to the narrower loss in the third quarter of 2012.

Revenues in the third quarter of 2012 came in at $17.9 million, up 61.3% from the year-ago quarter. Revenues surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $16 million. We note that revenues in the reported quarter included Dificid sales in the US and Canada along with contract revenue of $1.9 million under its collaboration agreement with Astellas Pharmaceuticals Europe Ltd., Astellas Pharma, Inc. and Specialized Therapeutics Australia, Pty. Ltd.

Third Quarter Details

We remind investors that Dificid, Optimer’s sole marketed product, was launched in the US in July 2011 for treating patients suffering from clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD) -- the most common form of nosocomial, or hospital acquired, diarrhea. Dificid was launched in Canada in June this year. Net sales of the drug came in at $16 million in the third quarter of 2012, up 51.5% from the year-ago period (up 4.9% sequentially).

Dificid was approved in the European Union (EU) under the trade name, Dificlir, in December 2011.

We note that Optimer has an exclusive two-year agreement (through July 2013) with Cubist Pharmaceuticals to co-promote Dificid in the US for the treatment of CDAD. Co-promotion expenses amounted to $4.4 million during the third quarter.

Optimer is planning to expand Dificid’s label. Optimer recently initiated a phase IIIb study of Dificid. The study is evaluating the prophylactic use of Dificid in patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation (BMT) or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). The company is expecting initial data from the study by the first half of 2014. We also note that currently there are no preventative treatments for the disease approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Both selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses (up 10.1%) and research & development (R&D) expenses (up 2.9%) climbed during the reported quarter. The massive increase in SG&A expenses was primarily attributable to increased salary expenses.

Our Recommendation

Currently, we have a Neutral stance on Optimer in the long run. The company carries a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold rating) in the short run. We are pleased with the company’s effort to expand Dificid’s market globally. We nevertheless remain concerned about Optimer’s dependence on a single product for growth.

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