The Company also announced that Kurt Hartman - who currently serves as General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Senior Vice President - has been appointed acting CFO and a search for a permanent CFO has commenced.
The appointments were made after the Optimer Board of Directors removed Dr. Michael Chang as Chairman and terminated John D. Prunty, Chief Financial Officer, and Dr. Youe-Kong Shue, Vice President. The Board, excluding Dr. Chang, unanimously approved the personnel changes. The Company said that Dr. Chang remains as a Director of the Company, but that the Board has requested his resignation.
The changes are not expected to materially impact the Company's revenues or operations, including the commercialization and launch of DIFICID®, but were related to certain lapses in corporate governance practices and the Company's relationship with Optimer Biotechnology, Inc. ("OBI"), its 43%-owned independent, Taiwanese-based affiliate.
Separately, the Company announced that, based upon preliminary results, it expects to report gross revenues of approximately $16.45 million for the first quarter of 2012, an increase of approximately 36% over gross revenues for the fourth quarter of 2011.
Dr. Chang's removal as Chairman resulted from the Board's views as to his actions in his capacity as Optimer's representative on the Board of Directors of OBI as well as his failure to identify and effectively manage compliance, record keeping and conflict of interest issues in connection with OBI's grant to Dr. Chang, potentially for the benefit of a third party, of 1.5 million shares of OBI. The terminations of Mr. Prunty and Dr. Shue were related to the belief of Optimer's Independent Directors that both individuals failed to follow proper procedures when they became aware of the issues related to the issuance of the OBI shares to Dr. Chang.
The Company said it has disclosed the matter to the relevant U.S. authorities and is cooperating with those authorities in reviewing the matter.
Optimer's Board has determined to remove Dr. Chang from OBI's Board of Directors and to appoint Dr. McKinnell to replace Dr. Chang as Optimer's representative on the OBI Board.
Dr. McKinnell stated, "Clearly, we are disappointed that we had to take these actions. However, the Board believes they reflect the importance to the Company of good corporate governance practices and that they are in the best interests of the Company and its stakeholders. Importantly, the issues surrounding the Board's decision relate solely to the Company's relationship with OBI."
Comments on Preliminary Results for 2012 First QuarterCommenting upon the Company's first quarter results, Mr. Lichtinger said: "We are pleased that the Company continues to perform well in the marketplace and, based upon preliminary results, we expect to report that gross revenues for the first quarter of 2012 increased to approximately $16.45 million, approximately 36% over gross revenues of $12.22 million for the fourth quarter of 2011.
"We are especially pleased with these results since it demonstrates continuing momentum in our business. Indeed, after a successful 2011 highlighted by the FDA approval and U.S. launch of DIFICID as well as European approval of the drug, Optimer is delivering strong growth into 2012 and continues to advance key drivers of growth. Our recently announced collaboration and license agreement with Astellas to develop and commercialize DIFICID in Japan is another sign of our continuing momentum."
Mr. Lichtinger added, "The strong growth is also being driven by Optimer's recently launched Long Term Care (LTC) strategy, which resulted in a significant acceleration in prescriptions with 160 reported in last week's National Prescription Audit published by IMS Health. The formulary inclusion of DIFICID in three of the four key GPOs effective in April combined with a significant improvement in Medicare Part D coverage applicable to the LTC setting are expected to continue to generate increased growth.
"In addition, the increase in formulary Medicare Part D coverage from 13 million to 23 million lives that became effective as of April 2 is also expected to reduce the at least 30% of estimated prescription losses being experienced at the retail level as a result of lack of coverage or patient inability to pay the required co-insurance. Hospital performance continued to progress with over 700 hospitals now on formulary, motivating Optimer to rebalance its hospital field activities to increase pull through (number of prescriptions in hospitals where DIFICID is on formulary). In support of Optimer's first line focus on patients at high risk of lower sustained clinical cure and high cost, publications focusing on oncology and renally impaired patients were presented, respectively, at the recent ECCMID London conference, and Society of Hospital Medical conference in San Diego, showing improved performance across cure, recurrence and sustained clinical cure when compared to vancomycin," he concluded.