ISIS Pharmaceuticals (ISIS) is a name to watch in the lucrative arena of cholesterol reduction. On Nov. 13 its stock soared 20%, to 12.43, after release of favorable data on a new cholesterol drug at the American Heart Assn. meeting in Chicago. The stock is now at 10.84. The drug cut by 62% the levels of "bad" cholesterol in patients who took it for three months. "The robustness of the data is encouraging," says Mark Monane of investment firm Needham, who rated ISIS a "buy" six months before the results were released. He notes that the drug, which is taken by injection, "lowers cholesterol in a mechanism distinct from statins." Its safety profile, he adds, both as a single agent and in combination with statins, shows that the drug is "well tolerated," with only mild injection-site reactions. The data indicate that the drug warrants continued development as a powerful new addition to therapies for cutting cholesterol. The biggest drug for cholesterol is Pfizer's (PFE) Lipitor, with annual sales of $14 billion. Aaron Reames of A.G. Edwards (AGE), who also rates ISIS a "buy," expects the breakthrough to continue to generate "solid clinical data throughout 2007."
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By Gene G. Marcial