* Co says competition, lack of patient access caused sales
* Shares down 14 pct
By Esha Dey
May 9 Sales of Dendreon Corp's prostate
cancer vaccine Provenge declined in the first quarter despite
efforts by the biotechnology drugs maker to shore up flagging
The company's shares fell 14 percent to $4.06 in morning
trade on the Nasdaq. They touched a low of $3.95.
Dendreon is watched closely due to the immense potential of
cancer vaccines, but Provenge sales have never really taken off
due to physician uncertainty about reimbursement and limited
The emergence of newer prostate cancer drugs have also
squeezed the vaccine's potential. Competing drugs, such as
Medivation Inc's Xtandi and Johnson & Johnson's
Zytiga, have the added advantage of being easier to use.
Provenge is tailored for each individual patient and works
by stimulating the immune system.
Competition and the lack of patient access were the main
reasons for the decline in sales, Dendreon Chief Executive John
Johnson said on a conference call, adding that competitors were
mostly affecting its small and low-volume accounts.
Dendreon's vaccine costs more than $90,000 per patient and
has been found to have extended the life of advanced prostate
cancer patients by about 4 months in trials.
"Smaller accounts are more susceptible to competition for
two reasons: first they are not yet as familiar with using a
complex biologic as larger accounts and hence may be more drawn
to oral therapies. Second, the larger competitors have a reach
and frequency advantage in this setting," the CEO said.
The company expects to reach more patients through its
direct-to-consumer marketing efforts, and said some of its
smaller and low-volume accounts returned to Provenge in the
second quarter after some initial trial with oral therapies.
"Currently, we are seeing an improvement in enrollments, a
trend which began mid-way through the first quarter," Johnson
"As we leverage the power of our direct-to-consumer
campaign, we are confident in our ability to grow Provenge year
over year," Johnson said.
Product revenue, reflecting Provenge sales, fell 18 percent
in the first quarter to $67.6 million.
However, lower operating expenses helped the company narrow
its first-quarter loss.
The company's net loss for the quarter was $72.0 million, or
48 cents per share, compared with a loss of $103.9 million, or
70 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.
Analysts on average were expecting a loss of 48 cents per
share on revenue of $79.7 million, according to Thomson Reuters