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Why Shares of Diplomat Pharma Got Slammed Today

Lots of new therapies are headed for the market.Photograph by Agnieszka Wozniak—Caiaimage via Getty Images

Shares of Flint, Michigan-based Diplomat Pharmacy (DPLO) tumbled nearly 30% Tuesday after a JPMorgan Chase analyst downgraded the company’s rating despite a seemingly rosy fourth-quarter earnings update on Monday.

Diplomat, which is the largest independent specialty pharmacy in the U.S., reported earnings that smashed analyst expectations. The company’s quarterly sales were up more than 61% year-over-year while its full-year 2015 sales were up about 52% year-over-year to $986.8 million and $3.37 billion, respectively.

But JPMorgan’s Lisa Gill noted that potential trouble lurked beneath the topline numbers given Diplomat’s less impressive 2016 outlook.

“We are having a difficult time bridging the 2016 outlook, which implies a deceleration in the organic adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization) growth rate, despite what we generally view as a strong fundamental backdrop,” said Gill. Although the specialty pharma raised revenue projections for 2016, it lowered EBITDA and earnings per share estimates for both 2016 and 2017.

Gill went on to note that it is possible Diplomat is simply maintaining a conservative outlook. But she also maintained that the going may be tough for the company given biopharma’s topsy-turvy 2016 and a potential downturn in the hepatitis C drug market. Gill lowered the firm’s price target from $52 to $30.

Specialty pharmacies, many of which provide mail-order services for payers and benefits managers like Express Scripts (ESRX) and CVS Health’s (CVS) Caremark unit, have been receiving more scrutiny in recent months after a much-publicized scandal involving Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) and the now-defunct specialty pharma Philidor Rx.

Some have questioned this distribution model and the pharmacies’ close ties with drugmakers, leading to a major benefits manager crackdown on the companies which began last fall.

Diplomat announced earlier this month that it would begin filling prescriptions for Merck’s (MRK) hepatitis C therapy Zepatier. That drug is expected to shake up the HCV market by introducing competition to pricier alternatives such as Gilead Sciences’ (GILD) blockbusters Sovaldi and Harvoni.