After a brutal three weeks of intensifying scrutiny, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. tried to further assuage investors over its business model during an investor call Tuesday. The call followed a three-month period that has seen the pharma giant’s share price drop by two-thirds amid controversies over its distribution model and drug pricing.
CEO Michael Pearson sounded a contrite note. "The past few weeks have been a painful learning experience for me personally, and I know it has been painful for many of you as well," he said.
Valeant severed ties with specialty pharmacy partner Philidor RX in late October after revelations of Philidor's questionable business practices and ties to Valeant surfaced. The specialty pharmacy, which handled client orders and negotiated with insurance companies, represented 6.8 percent of Valeant's revenue in the third quarter of 2015, almost entirely in dermatological products.
Pearson said that while the total impact of the imbroglio couldn't yet be quantified, the Canadian company expected to see a "minimal" revenue hit. The company has been making reimbursements to customers still routing orders through Philidor's former channel to avoid a decrease in volume."We'd rather take a short-term hit to protect our business," said Pearson, who would not comment on 2016 revenue impacts.
Valeant's troubles have mounted in recent weeks. Federal investigators in two states have opened probes into the company's drug pricing model and relationship with specialty pharmacies, which route prescriptions and often assist patients with copays.
In late October reports revealed that Valeant had an unusually close relationship with Philidor, which had been a virtual unknown up to that point. Valeant paid $100 million in late 2014 for a right to acquire the specialty pharmacy, which has since been accused of changing prescriptions after doctors filed them and misleading insurers. The crisis deepened when Express Scripts and CVS cut business ties with Philidor after revelations began leaking out. Valeant now expects to cease Philidor operations by Jan. 30 at the latest, and to have a "Plan B" in place within 90 days.
Pearson reiterated that an independent commission was investigating Valeant's relationship with Philidor. "We don't have any other arrangements like Philidor," Pearson said. "I want to remind everyone that Philidor was a separate company."
Still, Valeant isn't looking to abandon the specialty pharmacy model. Though Pearson did not provide details as to what will replace Philidor, he said Valeant would implement "distinctive" channels involving specialty pharmacies.
A favorite of hedge fund managers, including Bill Ackman, Valeant has expanded aggressively over the last seven years. Major acquisitions, including that of eye care company Bausch and Lomb, have left a towering $30 billion pile of debt on the company's books, which Pearson said Valeant was looking to tackle in coming quarters.
Valeant has also promised to shift from a strategy characterized by expansion and drug price increases to one of organic growth. On the call, Pearson hinted at the challenges of such a shift, noting, "One of the consequences of such rapid growth is you don't always take the time to listen to what the outside world is saying."