Back on August 8 Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) announced that its key immuno-oncology drug Opdivo had failed to demonstrate its efficacy in a trial for treating lung cancer. At the time I characterized this particular trial as a part of a go-for-broke strategy that would have given Opdivo a huge boost in the market against Merck’s (MRK) Keytruda, the main competitor to Opdivo at the moment in the hot market for drugs that fight cancer by enlisting the body’s immune system. Bristol-Myers had designed its Opdivo trial to demonstrate the drug’s efficacy for a larger pool of potential patients than Merck’s drug addressed. Which would have increased the size of Opdivo’s market if the trial had been successful.
But it wasn’t. And on the news the stock plunged almost 20% from $74.80 on August 4 to $59.89 on August 8.
In a post I wrote on September 21 I said that Opdivo would be back in a series of trials with narrower scope and that would focus on using Opdivo in combination with other drugs. For example, I noted, Bristol-Myers would test Opdivo in combination with another Bristol-Myrs cancer drug Yervoy.
In late October, for example, Bristol-Myers announced new data presentations from studies evaluating Opdivo in combination with Yervoy in the treatment of melanoma at the upcoming meeting of the Society Melanoma Research from November 6 to 9. On November 2 Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMY) announced new data on the combination of Opdivo plus Yervoy and Opdivo plus lirilumab would be presented at the upcoming meeting on November 9 to 11 of Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer. Other news has reported collaborations with other drug companies to test Opdivo in combination with other drugs.
More recently announcements have reported focused approvals from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for Opdivo. For example, on November 10 Bristol-Myers announced that the FDA had approved injections of Opdivo for the treatment of patients with recurrent or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
And the successful conclusion of other Opdivo trials. For example, on November 14 the company reported data from a Phase1/2 trial of Opdivo with Urelumab in the treatment of melanoma.
To me all this validates my argument that Opdivo would recover the ground it lost in August through a series of narrower trials and presentations.
Simultaneously, on October 27 Bristol-Myers reported third quarter earnings of 77 cents a share, 12 cents a share better than Wall Street projections. Revenue climbed 21% year over year to $4.92 billion versus the $4.8 Wall Street estimate. Sales of Opdivo climbed to $900 million for the quarter, just shy of Wall Street projections.
All this has meant that the stock has recovered some of the ground it lost as a result of the August news. The shares closed at $56.61 today, November 15. That’s 15% above the October 27 low–although still below the stock’s August 4 price of $74.80.
As of today, November 15, I’m keeping Bristol-Myers Squibb in my Jubak Picks portfolio and maintaining my target price of $81 a share for May 2017. The stock currently pays a 2.68% dividend.