1st and only drug lowers United Therapeutics loss


United Therapeutics Corp. said yesterday that its fourth-quarter loss narrowed to $2.6 million as sales grew for its first and only drug, Remodulin, a treatment for the debilitating disease of pulmonary hypertension.

The Silver Spring company said the quarterly loss amounted to 12 cents per share. The company lost $7.4 million, or 37 cents per share, in the 2001 fourth quarter.

Analysts had expected a loss of 17 cents a share, according to the average estimate of two analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call.

Quarterly revenue grew to $12.2 million, up from $1.6 million in the 2001 fourth quarter.

The gains came primarily from sales of Remodulin, which Chief Executive Officer Martine A. Rothblatt said is now selling at an annual rate of $36 million. Remodulin won the approval of the Food and Drug Administration in May 2002.

The drug competes primarily with GlaxoSmithKline's Flolan, which also is used to treat patients with potentially life-threatening high-blood pressure in vessels between the heart and lungs.

United Therapeutics argues that its drug, administered from a cassette via a needle under the skin, carries less risk of infection and is more convenient than Flolan, which is administered via a catheter into the chest.

A third drug, Actelion Ltd.'s Tracleer, is a pill taken primarily by patients whose symptoms have not advanced to the point of needing Flolan or Remodulin, according to Dr. Martin Auster, an analyst for SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

Remodulin is "winning a good share of the new patients coming in," Auster said.

For the year, United Therapeutics lost $23.7 million, or $1.15 per share, on revenue of $30.1 million. That compares with a loss of $37.3 million, or $1.84 per share, on revenue of $5.7 million in 2001.

The loss for 2002 included two investment charges: a $7.4 million loss on marketable investments as the company sold all its marketable debt in July 2002 and reinvested the money in money market funds, commercial paper and other issues; and a $2.9 million write-down of another investment's value.

United Therapeutics shares lost 4 cents to close at $15.35 yesterday on the Nasdaq stock market.

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