Amgen: Anemia Drugs Take Yet Another Hit


The Food and Drug Administration late this morning put out a news release with the heading, "FDA Receives New data on Risks of Anemia Drugs." This is more bad news for an additional population of cancer patients and, of course, Amgen and, to a lesser extent, Johnson and Johnson . As soon as the news hit, shares of AMGN took a plunge.

The agency says it is reviewing the results of two studies that show breast and advanced cervical cancer patients who got the drugs Aranesp, Epogen or Procrit to treat anemia (fatigue) caused by chemo "died sooner or had more rapid tumor growth than similar patients who didn't receive the anemia drug(s)."

The FDA also says it didn't have this info when it slapped a so-called "Black Box" or severe safety warning on the drugs late last year. As a result, the press release says the agency "may take additional action." What's more is that another advisory committee meeting will be held in the next few months to "revisit" the risks and benefits of the anemia-fighting drugs on cancer patients.

Amgen is scheduled to present at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco next Tuesday morning at 10:30 ET. So, that will likely be the first chance investors and analysts have to hear what the company has to say about the persistent pressure on its bread-and-butter franchise.

I left a voicemail message a week or so ago for the appropriate corporate communications person at AMGN requesting an interview with Chairman and CEO Kevin Sharer at the conference next Monday. As of today, I have not received a return call or an email reply--even just to say that my request has been received and is or is not being run up the flagpole. Of all the companies I cover, Amgen has one of the least responsive PR departments.

Early last year, an outside agency even did a survey of reporters--including me--for Amgen about its media relations, but I have yet to see any noticeable changes or improvement. I've also been told that Mr. Sharer was not pleased by questions I asked him during a live interview on CNBC a few years ago.

But we have confirmed several CEO live interviews throughout the day on January 7th. Our coverage gets underway on "Squawk Box" and continues all the way through "Fast Money." I'll post the lineup here tomorrow.

Questions? Comments?