Big Pharma Events: The Pre-Holiday Crunch


I don't know how they all got clustered together--maybe so many of the major pharmaceutical companies meet with Wall Street in early December so everyone can then take off on long vacations--but my hands are full with three big pharma events in as many days. Yesterday, Merck put out guidance. And today, Bristol-Myers Squibb details its cost-cutting campaign at an analyst meeting in New York.

At the same time we've got the FDA Advisory Committee meeting on Genentech's Avastin for breast cancer to keep an eye on. Tomorrow morning is Eli Lilly's analyst meeting. Next Tuesday is Merck's. Then Pfizer does another baby biotech partnership deal this morning with Adolor , only a few weeks after buying the small-cap biotech Coley Pharmaceuticals .

Bristol announced several months ago that it's going to cut costs, so it's really a question of how many people will lose their jobs, how many plants get closed, how much operating expenses come down. Analysts say if it's not a big enough number the Street could be disappointed. The press release is due out at noon eastern time.

I already know of one victim of the so-called "productivity transformation". Former Bristol spokesman Tony Plohoros says he was given his walking papers last week. Pharma's Market wishes him well.

And as for Genentech , the stock sold off yesterday and Monday on fears of a negative vote from the FDA panel today. In early trading this morning, the stock--along with the rest of the market--is up a bit. Analysts say if DNA wins the shares could pop. And if it loses some believe there's still "downside risk". The advisory committee vote will take place sometime today. Most analysts says it's going to be a "contentious" (one says "feisty") meeting (they're usually sleep-inducing affairs) because of the debate over whether the data are good enough.

The panel is chaired by the University of Michigan's Dr. Maha Hussein who has become such a lightning rod in the Dendreon Provenge saga because she was one of the outspoken critics who many believe was influential in derailing--at least, temporarily--the prostate cancer drug. Through a U of M spokesperson awhile back, Dr. Hussein declined my request for comment about that.

Questions? Comments?