Pharmaceutical giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:TEVA) got a much needed break this week.
After being told in late January the company’s patent protection on the 40 mg dose of multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone was no longer valid (not a complete surprise, by the way), TEVA stock extended what’s become more than a 50% pullback since the middle of 2015. Smaller rival Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:MNTA), which also focuses on generic drugs, seemingly stood more than ready to begin production of a generic version of the MS treatment.
Or perhaps not. Momenta and manufacturing partner Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) weren’t quite as ready to roll on the Copaxone generic. Just a couple of days ago, the pair announced the Pfizer factory intended to produce the alternative multiple sclerosis treatment wasn’t up to the FDA’s snuff. Teva Pharmaceutical will enjoy just a little more time with no competition.
Still, inasmuch as Copaxone accounts for 40% of Teva’s profits, is TEVA stock even close to worth owning in 2017 and beyond?
As it turns out, yeah, it may well be.
Better Pipeline Than Recognized
Calling a spade a spade (and telling owners of TEVA stock what they already know in their hearts), Teva Pharmaceutical blew it. The company just didn’t do enough, fast enough, to prepare for life after Copaxone. It was a misstep simply because the drug drives 15% of the company’s total sales, and 40% of its profits.
This is the core — though not the only — reason CEO Erez Vigodman stepped down earlier this month.
And yet, maybe the company and Vigodman had done more on this front — including expanding its generic drugs business — than it got enough credit for.
Teva Pharmaceutical has a stronger pipeline than most investors may realize. And, much of that pipeline is far more near-term than most owners of TEVA stock appreciate. All told, the company’s got five drugs currently in late-stage trials that should be completed soon enough to allow for an new drug application (NDA) to be filed with the FDA in 2017. Indeed, counting the three NDAs filed in late 2016, the company anticipates a total of seven approvals by the year’s end.
Its migraine drug TEV-48125 is one of them. It’s a bit unconventional in that it’s administered as an injection rather than as a pill. For migraine sufferers though, it’s a minor inconvenience, particularly in that it works. In earlier-stage studies, the trial’s participants found their so-called ‘headache hours’ for one month were reduced by nearly two-thirds their norm.
Also in the company’s pain-management pipeline is TV-46763, which is a much-needed abuse-deterrent opioid.
As much work as has been done on preventing these strong painkillers from being used in the wrong way, little progress has been made. More than 1,000 people are rushed to the nation’s emergency rooms every day because of prescription opioid abuse.
Teva’s also has a couple of biosimilar cancer treatments in phase 3 trials, another MS treatment that’s in its last trial stage, and two asthma drugs in the works.
Granted, the loss of Copaxone’s patent protection (and it’s only a matter of time before Pfizer and Momenta get their version on the market) leaves behind some big shoes to fill; Teva sells about $4 billion worth of the drug annually. Citigroup research nearly a year ago pointed out, though, that Teva’s migraine, and pridopidine and tardive dyskinesia drugs currently in late-stage trials could collectively generate more than $5 billion in revenue per year.
Bottom Line for TEVA Stock
Don’t misunderstand. Teva’s got serious challenges on the horizon. If nothing else, the time between Copaxone’s impending revenue implosion and the point where this year’s expected seven FDA approvals actually start to generate revenue will look and feel grim. It could take several quarters for the pipeline’s top prospects to approach their peak sales levels.
This worst-case scenario is apt to be priced in already, though. TEVA stock has been cut in half over the course of the past 18 months as investors prepared for this inevitable dethroning of Copaxone. The forward-looking P/E of 7.4 suggests the sellers overshot, not entirely aware of all the new opportunities the company was brewing.
For those traders with a longer-term mindset and a little intestinal fortitude, generic drugs leader Teva Pharmaceutical is an interesting prospect.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.