It is not unusual for politicians to make or break certain industries, or at least create a serious “boom or bust” climate for them. Just go ask coal or alternative energy executives, and they will give you very different reads on what they think about policies from the current White House. On Monday, a simple tweet managed to wreck the biotech sector.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sent out a tweet late Monday morning. This was after a New York Times article showed that the cost of a 62-year old drug was being raised to $750.00 from $13.50.
The New York Times wrote over the weekend that Daraprim, a drug to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection, was acquired in August by Turing Pharma. It turns out that Turing is a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager, and the firm then immediately raised the price to $750 per pill from a prior price of $13.50. Suddenly the cost of treatment for some patients rose into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While most investors in biotech favor pricing power, it goes without saying that sometimes “too much” really is too much. Still, Turing Pharma’s Martin Shkreli told Bloomberg why the price of this drug went up so much.
Blaming a biotech sector drop on a tweet is one thing, but investors should remember that Hillary Clinton is set to lay out her plan on prescriptions drugs momentarily. At issue is whether the government will be able to negotiate with drug companies over their pricing.
If investors and the public want to know just what can happen when a company goes on a gouging binge, just tell them to look at the case of KV Pharmaceuticals. It used to trade under the ticker KV-A, but the company imploded after raising the price of an existing premature baby drug called Makena after getting FDA exclusivity — the old price was about $15.00 per patient, then it was jacked up to $1,500 per patient.
That was one of those cases when a pricing backlash looked almost certain. Now go try to find KV Pharmaceuticals. It eventually went bankrupt, then changed names to Lumara and was ultimately sold in two pieces to AMAG and Perrigo.
Needless to say, one attack on one company has been deemed as an attack on the pricing of all high-priced drugs. The truth is, some drugs do really take tens of millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars just to make it to market. The biotech exchange traded funds have taken it on the chin here, as you will see.
SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (NYSEMKT: XBI) was last seen down 6% to $74.60, against a 52-week range of $47.28 to $91.11.
The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology (NASDAQ: IBB) was last seen down 5.1% to $338.42, against a 52-week range of $247.86 to $400.79.
Lastly, the First Trust NYSE Arca Biotech ETF (NYSEMKT: FBT) was last seen down 4.3% at $113.50, versus a 52-week range of $64.08 to $132.21.
Here is a copy of Hillary Clinton’s Tweet that played havoc on the biotechs on Monday.