A bill in Congress that could clip the wings of the drugresponsible for Amgen Inc.'s initial take-off could be causingsome concern for investors -- unnecessarily, according to someinvestment analysts.

An amendment to a larger health care financing bill, H.R. 5520,proposes a 9 percent cut in the federal reimbursement fordialysis patients receiving Amgen's Epogen anti-anemia drug.The current $11 reimbursement for Epogen administered inconjunction with dialysis, typically three times weekly, wouldbe cut to $10. The vast majority of patients treated withEpogen sales are covered by the federal reimbursement.

The amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., was voted out of a subcommittee last month to the HouseWays and Means committee, where it now resides. Amgenofficials declined comment on its chances for passage or forbeing signed into law by President Bush.

Amgen's stock (NASDAQ:AMGN) fell $1.50 a share to $61.75 onFriday, hitting its lowest close since July 8.

Although the bill was filed more than two months ago, "it hasbecome news on the street" during the past week, according toa company representative.

Some analysts are not concerned. Although it could in theoryaffect 9 percent of up to $500 million in annual sales, anyreimbursement cut by the government might be picked up bysupplemental insurance carriers or by the patients themselves,said Franklin Berger, an analyst with Labe & Associates in NewYork.

Besides, "the real motor behind Amgen now in Neupogen,"Berger said. Neupogen for treating neutropenia has penetratedless than 25 percent of it its potential market, and its salesgrowth is outpacing Epogen. Berger predicted that Neupogensales might overtake Epogen by the end of the year.

-- Ray Potter Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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