Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (VRX) attempted to calm nerves after a spate of critical reports shaved nearly 30 percent off the company’s stock price in two days. In response to a sensational report from short seller Citron Research that helped spark the free fall, Valeant announced a special call with analysts on Monday to address allegations of fraud.
The Canadian pharmaceutical giant has faced scrutiny since chief executive Michael Pearson informed shareholders Monday about the company’s previously undisclosed financial relationship with Philidor Rx, a publicity-shy specialty pharmacy that distributes drugs and bills clients for Valeant.
Valeant folds Philidor’s financials into its own, Pearson told analysts, and in late 2014 acquired a then-undisclosed option to acquire Philidor.
Investors weren’t satisfied. Markets have grown suspicious over Valeant’s reliance on specialty pharmacies like Philidor, which maintain exclusive relationships with drug manufacturers hoping to sidestep retail pharmacies and ship directly to customers. The use of specialty pharmacies has led Citron and others to question whether sales figures were inflated.
Last week it was revealed that Valeant was under federal investigation over its drug distribution policy and patient assistance programs, which cover patients’ co-pays in order to increase sales.
Despite the disclosures by the company, investors have grown only more confused by the details of tangled relationships between Valeant, Philidor and what Valeant calls “pharmacies in the Philidor pharmacy network.”
A lengthy investigation by the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation published Monday revealed that Valeant had been sued by one member of that network, R&O Pharmacy. R&O had contested an invoice from Valeant that claimed the pharmacy owed it nearly $70 million. R&O denied that it ever had a direct relationship with Valeant.
As it turns out, it was Philidor that stood between Valeant and the small pharmacy. Philidor said it provided Web and call services for R&O, and it maintains an option to acquire the company. As multiple reports have documented, the two shared infrastructure and boards of directors.
But why Valeant and R&O are at odds over $70 million remains a mystery. All but one analyst maintained their ratings of the company, rejecting the most explosive -- and unproven -- insinuations that Valeant used specialty pharmacies in order to book fake revenue.
Andrew Left, author of the scathing Citron report, stood by his criticisms of Valeant’s opaque business practices Thursday. Appearing on Bloomberg Live, Left called into question Valeant’s business model, which until recently relied on big acquisitions and controversial price hikes. Left said he was “more confused” Thursday than the day before.
“Look at what the market is telling you. That's Wall Street saying, ‘Hey, we don't trust your answer,’ ” Left said, referring to Valeant’s precipitous fall in price.
In a Wednesday statement, Valeant said, “Citron's false and misleading statements about Valeant appear to be an attempt to manipulate the market in an effort to drive down Valeant's stock price.”
Valeant’s champions have also gone on the defensive. Hedge fund star Bill Ackman doubled down on his support for Valeant, scooping up another 2 million shares Wednesday. Still, Valeant was down 8.5 percent Thursday afternoon.