DURHAM — When under attack, sometimes the best thing to do is launch a counterattack.

That’s what Trimeris did on Thursday as it launched a strike to turn around a growing perceoption that its AIDS drug isn’t delivering as promoised.

Fuzeon, Trimeris insisted, is making headway in sales as a treatment for AIDS and should produce substantial revenues in the third quarter, executives of Fuzeon and its partner Roche said Thursday.

Trimeris, its stock closing at a 52-week low of $27.83 on Wednesday, announced a conference call Thursday afternoon after the markets closed. In the call, which started less than 90 minutes later, Trimeris said that sales of Fuzeon should generate between $9.5 million and $10.5 million in revenues in the third quarter.
The stock’s 52-week high is $56.90.

“I can assure you we have gotten a lot of the bugs worked out on reimbursement and distribution,” Reuters quoted George Abercrombie, president and chief executive of Roche’s North American pharmaceutical operations, as saying.

“We have not changed our long-term expectations for the drug. It is very early in the launch,” Abercrombie said.

Sales have been slow for a number of reasons, including costs reimbursement issues and the fact the drug has to be injected. Analysts have downgraded Trimeris stock as well. Trimeris did close at $28.42 on Thursday but dropped 5 percent in after hours trading and the conference call.

“I think it confirms what people had feared that the rollout is going more slowly than anticipated,” said Sharon Seiler, analyst at Punk, Ziegel & Co., according to Reuters. She has a “buy” rating on the stock. Seilder said after the call that she was reviewing her projections, Reuters said.

Adam Feuerstein, a staff writer for The Street, has warned in recent months that Fuzeon faced several hurdles. On Sept. 15, following a stock downgrade of Trimeris by SG Cowen, Feurstein wrote” “I’ve been reporting for months that Wall Street has overhyped Fuzeon’s commercial potential, based on conversations with HIV doctors.”

Legg Mason also recently downgraded Trimeris.

Fuzeon hit the market in March.

Trimeris said it is working to ease distribution problems and address other concerns.

Will the Trimeris counterstrike be enough to change thinking on Wall Street? We’ll find out today.

Trimeris: www.trimeris.com