Orexigen Therapeutics - Long Obesity & Patents, Short Massive Cash Burn

Only Oprah Winfrey Can Sell Weight Loss

giphy (1).gif

Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. is a publicly-traded ($OREX) biopharmaceutical company with one FDA-approved product named "Contrave.” Contrave is an “adjunct” to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise for chronic weight management in certain eligible adults. In English, it’s a drug to help adults (allegedly) lose weight. And before we continue, please take a minute to appreciate the exquisite creativity these folks deployed with the name, "Contrave." We can only imagine the whiteboarding sessions that went down before someone said in MacGuyver-esque fashion, “Wait! Control + cravings = Contrave!” We hope the company didn't shell out too much cash money to the brand consultants for that one. But we digress.

Anyway, the drug could theoretically service the 36.5% of adults the Center for Disease Control & Prevention has identified as obese — a potential market of 91-93 million people in the United States alone. And that’s just today: that number is predicted to rise to 120 million people in the next several years. Yikes: that's 33% of the U.S. population. Apropos, the company claims that the drug is the number one prescribed weight-loss brand in the US with over 1.8 million prescriptions written to date, subsuming 700,000 patients. The drug is also approved in Europe, South Korea, Canada, Lebanon, and the UAE. 

All of that surface-level success notwithstanding, the company has lost approximately $730 million since its inception. This is primarily because it has been spending the last 16 years burning cash on R&D, clinical studies for FDA approval, recruitment, manufacturing, marketing, etc., both in and outside the U.S. PETITION Note: And people wonder why drugs are so expensive. The company believes it could be profitable by 2019 under its existing operating model and revenue forecasts; it enjoys a patent until 2030. Clearly, the patent is the critical piece to this company’s future.

Prior to filing for bankruptcy, the company’s bankers attempted to effectuate a sale of the company to no avail. The goal of the bankruptcy filing, therefore, is to pursue a sale with the benefit of "free and clear" status (⚡️Nerd alert ⚡️: this means the buyer doesn’t need to take on the substantial litigation risk to clear title in the asset). While no stalking horse bidder is lined up, The Baupost Group LLC, is leading a group of secured noteholders (including Ecori Capital, Highbridge Capital and UBS O'Connor) to provide a $35 million DIP credit facility and buy the company some time. Will they end up owning it? 

Two other things of note here:

  1. The Baupost Group LLC is really toning its bankruptcy musculature lately. Between this deal and Westinghouse, the firm has been active.

  2. Note to company management: Oprah Winfrey may have some more room in her weight loss asset portfolio now that she’s dumped a meaningful amount of her Weight Watchers International Inc. ($WW) stock holdings at a considerable gain.