Celgene (CELG) is a pharmaceutical company, usually seen as a biotechnology company, known for selling Revlimid, a derivative of thalidomide for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Earlier this year Celgene completed the acquisition of Pharmion, which sold thalidomide in Europe for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Celgene also markets Alkeran, which has been used to treat multiple myeloma since 1962, and Vidiza for MDS (myelodisplastic syndrome). It no longer markets Focalin and Ritalin, having sold the rights to Novartis.
Celgene has a very high price to earnings ratio, listed at almost 50 at the close of trade Friday, September 5, 2008. Very few companies have PE's like that in this market. But Celgene's Q2 revenues were up 34% from Q1 and up 64% from year-earlier. Part of that increase was due to the acquisition of Pharmion, but Pharmion itself was growing revenue rapidly before it was acquired.
The excitement is due partly to continuing good clinical results both for currently approved drugs in new (or at least varying) indications and for Celgene's extensive pipeline. Before getting carried away, keep in mind the usual risks for drug companies. The discovery of previously unknown side effect (or adverse reaction) can cause a drug to be pulled from the market or restricted in its use. Even approved drugs will not sell well if insurance companies refuse to reimburse for them. And anything in the pipeline can fail to become profitable due to a failure in the market or expenses exceeding revenues, or competitive pressures.
Ambrucin is leading the list for new future profit generation at Celgene. According to Celgene, "Ambrucin has demonstrated substantial clinical efficacy in the treatment of small cell lung cancer. Amrubicin is a potent topoisomerase II inhibitor and is being studied as a single agent and in combination with anti-cancer therapies for a variety of solid tumors, including lung cancer." Ambrucin was given Fast Track status by the FDA last week. While many experimental drugs get Fast Track status, Ambrucin is already being used to treat lung cancer in Japan, so marketing it in the United States should happen relatively soon.
On August 21, 2008, Celgene announced "VIDAZA (azacitidine) received expanded U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to reflect new overall survival achieved in the AZA-001 survival study of patients with higher-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). This expanded indication supplements the 2004 FDA authorization of VIDAZA as the first therapy approved in the U.S." Vidaza is also being launched in Europe, which should add substantially to Celgene revenues once it ramps up.
Revlimid has shown good results in trials for CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) and NHL (non-Hodgkin Lymphoma), but approval from the FDA probably won't be possible until late 2009 or 2010.
All of this is on top of the continued expansion of Revlimid for multiple myeloma into more national markets, in particular into Asia.
Revenue growth tends to come in spurts in companies introducing new drugs because each nation has to approve the drug and then approve national health care reimbursement. So you can't just draw a straight line from a prior quarter or a prior year's quarter and say how fast revenues will grow. Stock prices tend to overreact to accelerations and decelerations.
So Celgene is probably best for investors with a good long investment horizon.
I own some Celgene stock.
Keep in mind that there is always risk (as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac investors just learned), so keep diversified!
My Celgene page
Summary of Q2 2008 Celgene Analyst Conference