A prime example of why the biotechs are gaining favor: CV Therapeutics (MCSI ). It has come out with what analysts say is the first new class of angina drug in 20 years. The remedy promises to improve the lives of 10 million Americans suffering from chronic chest pain, an estimated $4 billion-a-year market. CV specializes in small-molecule drugs to treat cardiovascular disease. "CV aims to be the one-stop shop for cardiovascular drugs," says Dr. Mark Monane, biotech analyst at New York investment firm Needham, who rates the stock--up from 30 on Nov. 8 to 53.90 on Nov. 28--a strong buy, with a target of 72. CV's Ranolazine produced "markedly positive results" in its second Phase III clinical trials, involving 191 patients with chronic angina, says Monane. Subjects were timed to see how long they could exercise on the treadmill before having an attack. Those who took Ranolazine could exercise longer, and had one less episode of angina per week. And they felt only "small changes" in blood pressure and heart rate, says Monane. Ranolazine is also being tested for use against atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and cardiac imaging.
The results will enable CV to file for approval of Ranolazine as a new drug with the Food & Drug Administration in mid-2002, says Monane. He expects it to be on the market by mid-2003. As the chronic-angina market continues to expand, at 400,000 new cases a year, Ranolazine will be important, says Monane, who says the drug should produce sales of $273 million in 2004, its first full year on the market. CV should be in the black by then, he says, earning $2.58 a share. Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank also rate CV a strong buy.
By Gene G. Marcial