Amgen: The Anemia Aftermath And What They Wrote To Me


In a research note to clients this morning, Miller Tabak healthcare analyst Les Funtleyder writes about the FDA news I blogged about yesterdayregarding Amgen's anemia drugs. He says, "...we believe the major 'leg down' in usage (of the anemia drugs) was last year and more studies assuming no major new negative revelations will only serve to continue deterioration but at a decelerating rate."

But Funtleyder still isn't telling people to buy AMGN. "Though valuation is reasonable," he writes, "a deteriorating core franchise and a lackluster pipeline keep us on the sidelines for now."

And I also heard from Amgen shortly after the entry was posted. The biotech company's top spokesman, David Polk, fired off an email claiming I had not put the news in context. "As you will recall, we issued a release on December 6th announcing the label change discussions around GOG and PREPARE as well as the upcoming ODAC. Amgen is concerned about patient safety and that is why we are continuing to work closely with the FDA on ESA label updates, providing communication updates to healthcare providers as appropriate as well as conducting new clinical trials to address unanswered questions," Polk wrote.

COG and PREPARE are the acronyms for the two clinical trials in question. ODAC is the abbreviation for the FDA's cancer drug advisory committee which will soon take up the issue. ESA is the abbreviation for the anemia drug class.

He then went on to take me to task for, as he put it, taking "shots" at Amgen's unresponsive (that's my word) media relations team. Mr. Polk said he'd only retrieved my voicemail message of last week requesting an interview next Monday with Chairman and CEO Kevin Sharer at the upcoming JPMorgan Healthcare Conference on Wednesday of this week, when he returned from the holiday break. But he did not say why a day later he still had not replied.

A few blog readers have accused me of spending too much space here complaining about what I see as bad corporate PR. But all I'm trying to do is lift the curtain for investors and other interested readers to show people what happens behind the scenes in the daily give-and-take between the media and publicly-traded companies.

And, as a possible side effect, I hope this platform will help me make some headway. In this case, at least I finally got a response from someone at Amgen, which is hopefully a step toward building a better working relationship with the company.

Mr. Polk also claimed that because the company will be reporting earnings later this month that Mr. Sharer is in a regulatory "quiet period" and, therefore, can't give an interview right now to CNBC.

Mr. Sharer and hundreds of other healthcare company CEOs and top execs are making live presentations all next week at the JPM confab to thousands of investors and the formal power-points are followed by 30-minute q. and a. breakout sessions with smaller groups of investors, not to mention all of the one-on-one meetings that take place in San Francisco.

As we have done for the past several years, CNBC has a full slate of CEOs lined up for live interviews from JPM on Monday and most, if not all, have upcoming earnings. As promised yesterday, I will post our lineup here later today.

Questions? Comments?