Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ICPT) is in the news once again. This time, an article alleges OCA, the company’s only commercialized drug, has become the subject of an FDA investigation related to its safety. The stock, once battered by the company’s failed attempt to make OCA the first FDA-approved therapy for NASH, has slumped to trade near a 52-week low last week. The article has made no revelation, and the newly-identified safety signal, under evaluation as part of the FDA’s routine post-marketing surveillance, is classified as only a “potential risk” whose link to the drug is yet to be established.
As Intercept refocuses on OCA in PBC, the reputational damage can further decelerate the sale growth, already under pressure from the pandemic-related slowdown in new patient starts. Though the company leads in NASH therapeutic development, the highly complex path for a regulatory signoff rules out any premium for the current forward price-to-sales multiple, which, even with my optimistic revenue forecasts for 2020, identifies a modest premium for the stock. With the margin of safety being hardly adequate to offset the sales as well as R&D uncertainty, my neutral view on the stock remains.
Intercept Suffers a Double Whammy
Not even a week had passed since its previous regulatory hurdle when I last penned my article on Intercept in early July. The stock had crashed ~39.7%, posting the sharpest one-day drop following the announcement of the CRL (Complete Response Letter), which relates to the NDA (New Drug Application) the company filed for OCA (obeticholic acid/Ocaliva) for liver fibrosis due to NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). Despite the neutral rating on the stock, based largely on the uncertainty linked to the clinical development of liver therapies, I remained optimistic about the company’s prospects. After all, the FDA’s decision was based on