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Merrill Cuts NPS Pharma Rating

Merrill Lynch cut NPS Pharmaceuticals (NPSP) to near-term buy from strong buy but kept its long-term strong buy rating.

Analyst Eric Ende says that while he is convinced that NPS's Preos is a promising drug for severe osteoporosis, the timing of its launch is increasingly uncertain. According a 10Q filing by NPS, it has only enough supply of Preos to meet clinical trial requirements into Q3 of 2002. The supply issue is due to a recent problem at its contract fill & finish manufacturer, which resulted in material that did not meet its release specifications. Ende says this could limit Preos' clinical trial supply; hence, Phase III trials may have to reduce the number of patients, or possibly delay the Preos launch by 2-1/2 years.

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