Seattle-based Dendreon, best known for developing and marketing the first and only approved immunotherapy for prostate cancer, Provenge, has just filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of the drug’s hugely disappointing sales and pressure from acquired debts. The company and its share holders had projected sales to peak at $4 billion annually, but have only reached $300 million in 2014 – a slight increase from 2013’s numbers.
Provenge entered the market in 2010 as the pioneer treatment that utilized the patient’s own immune system to treat the cancer. However, sales expectations continued to fall short with the drug’s lofty price pegged at $93,000 for a single course. This was aggravated by the additional complicated process of tailoring the treatment to suit each cancer patient, and the arrival of more reasonably priced and reliable competition in the field of prostate cancer. While immunotherapy has been one of modern science’s main foci in developing treatments for cancer, Dendreon’s own approach and techniques have been somewhat ignored.
The company signed a restructuring agreement on Monday with holders representing approximately 84 percent of their debt. In the meantime, Dendreon will be focused on selling itself along with company assets. In fact, in the latter part of 2013, the company retained JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch to search for interested parties, but “no bids were ultimately submitted,” said an affidavit filed with the bankruptcy court in Delaware by Robert L. Crotty, the company’s counsel.
A back up solution would be to have the note holders convert debt interest into equity, with Dendreon becoming a privately held company. Unfortunately, current shareholders may lose their investment.
“Whether the restructuring takes the form of a stand-alone recapitalization or a sale of the company or its assets, we are confident that this process will allow Provenge to remain commercially available to the patients and providers who have come to rely on this revolutionary personalized cancer immunotherapy”, W. Thomas Amick, chief executive of Dendreon said in a NY Times article.