Is Philidor Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc’s Achilles’ Heel?
Drug maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc (NYSE:VRX) faces a barrage of scrutiny, from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and outraged investors alike. In a week where the stock had begun to significantly rise comes the news of criminal investigation charges and severed investor trust. Lawyers are engaged in evaluating whether undisclosed ties to specialty mail-order pharmacy Philidor fall under allegations of fraudulent practice by the company, specifically in defrauding its investors by hiding the relationship.
Valeant’s current financial undoing follows accusations that the company secretly relied on Philidor to sneak past insurer rejections with the intent of reimbursing its medications. Under the table, Philidor would resubmit denied claims to insurers until approval for VRX would be won. To submit these claims in underhanded fashion, Philidor strategically manipulated identification numbers from other pharmacies as well as even altering codes on some MD scripts.
Specialty pharmacies like Philidor are a staple in the drug world, as these small firms are responsible for filling prescriptions for complex and compounded medicines. However, a serious spark of suspicion ignites with Valeant’s $100 million option to buy Philidor. In the span of a decade, not once has the company exercised this right.
Investors never knew just how close Valeant and Philidor truly were, until last October when Valeant came under fire for its ties to Philidor; ties that were initiated back in 2013. As it has now been revealed, the mail-order pharmacy’s tactics sold a portfolio exceeding 50 VRX pharmaceuticals, resulting in the receipt of over $80 million in fees from Valeant.
Mizuho analyst Irina Rivkind Koffler offers insight into the tangled web of problems Valeant has woven, commenting, “We have been struggling with what to do with this stock as we are still not comfortable with the sequential decline in U.S. sales, which is unique amongst other companies in our space […] it is likely that VRX could be rapidly exposed to over $1B in treble damages from the RICO suit, plus any settlement fines tied to the most recent criminal investigation. […] Because VRX cannot borrow to service these expenses, we would expect the value of its equity to decline proportionately to its legal liability.”
To try to rectify a mess of its own making, Valeant hopes to restore trust amongst its investors once again. Since last October, the firm has internally led a review of its relationship with Philidor, and has been intently at work with some major retreading, from a wipe-clean of its board of directors to newly appointed captains to save the powerful, sinking ship.