Knocked Out Of The Arena


There is no quid pro quo in my line of work.

At least there shouldn't be. But when you do two storieson CNBC and another one on "TODAY" that mentions a company's drug and profiles a patient who appears to have been a "responder" in one of its clinical trials you expect a certain basic professional level of cooperation and assistance.

It gets back to the building and maintaining of relationships that I bloggedabout last week. In the case of Arena Pharmaceuticals today that didn't happen. And I have to wonder whether the perceived strength or weakness of its data had anything to do with it.

ARNA shares are off the lows of the morning, but still down big on very heavy volume. The company saysit met the threshhold criteria to win FDA approval of a diet drug, but analysts and investors apparently were hoping for bigger weight loss.

The company bizarrely scheduled a conference call for reporters at 7:30 a.m. ET today on its highly anticipated late-stage test results for its experimental diet drug. Conference calls, whether they're for the news media or for analysts and investors, are almost always done after a company or organization issues a press release. That gives the recipients time to read and digest it.


It put out the press release as the media conference call was starting. No surprise then that there were no questions when the operator opened the call to reporters. I was the only one in the queue and I didn't have a question, just a complaint over not having a chance to even read the press release before joining a conference call to talk about it.

The CEO, Jack Lief, replied by saying he'd pass along my comment to his investor relations people. Whatev. I can't imagine that a company would ever give analysts no time to review their results before hosting a conference call. Why would that be considered acceptable for the media? At the time, I was driving to work and listening to the CC on my BlackBerry/phone, so I couldn't, technologically speaking, multi-task and read the release at the same time.

Also, especially in this environment where little companies like Arena are running low on cash, it's pretty common for CEOs to come straight on CNBC to discuss their data for so-called lead product candidates. And given the market's reaction, you'd think Mr. Lief might want to defend or, frankly, try to "talk up" the results. He was invited to appear live with me today. A spokesperson told my producer, Ruth, he wouldn't be doing any TV interviews today.

I'm guessing ARNA's competitors in the developmental diet drug space, Orexigen and Vivus , will do better when their big test results come out later this year.

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