Dougherty v. Esperion Therapeutics, Inc., No. 17-1701 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Esperion has never generated any revenue, relying solely upon investor funding. Esperion’s sole focus is the development of ETC-1002, a first-in-class oral medication for lowering LDL “bad cholesterol,” a significant risk factor in cardiovascular disease. Esperion hopes to market ETC-1002 as an alternative treatment for statin-intolerant patients and as an add-on for patients are unable to reach their recommended levels using statins alone. In 2015, Esperion had completed several clinical studies and reported that ETC-1002 was well-tolerated and demonstrated significant average LDL-cholesterol reductions. After a meeting with FDA officials regarding Phase 3 of the approval process, Esperion published a press release, stating that “[b]ased upon feedback from the FDA, approval of ETC-1002 in [specific] patient populations will not require the completion of a cardiovascular outcomes trial,” with cautionary language, suggesting that “Esperion may need to change the design of its Phase 3 program once final minutes from the FDA meeting are received.” Market reaction was mostly positive. Following its receipt of the final FDA minutes, Esperion published another press release, indicating that the “FDA has encouraged the Company to initiate a cardiovascular outcomes trial promptly.” Esperion’s stock dropped 48% the next day. Plaintiffs, the purchasers of Esperion common stock between the two press releases, brought a class action under sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and SEC Rule 10b-5. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court holding that Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead a strong inference that Esperion’s CEO willfully or recklessly made misleading statements. Plaintiffs adequately alleged scienter.