Standing in front of a packed room of investors at a San Francisco conference early this year, Kevin Sharer took a repentant tone, the Los Angeles Times reports.

He first flipped to a slide labeled: "One Year Ago, We Were in a Good Spot." The chief executive documented how Amgen's revenue increased nearly 30% from 2001 to 2006. Then he deadpanned: "What a difference a year can make."

For Amgen Inc., Sharer's assessment couldn't be more true.

The Thousand Oaks biotech pioneer that could do no wrong for most of its 25-year history is increasingly at risk of losing its place atop the spectacularly lucrative but equally treacherous biotech industry.

In recent months, the company has scaled back manufacturing facilities, cut nearly one-sixth of its workforce and has taken the frugal step of selling some of its drug distribution rights, as it did last month to a Japanese drug company.

The company's prospects seem sufficiently glum that Wall Street has begun talking about Amgen as a possible takeover target. Pfizer Inc. is often named as a potential suitor although both companies have publicly dismissed the possibility.

Meanwhile, the relentless assault on Amgen's top-selling anemia franchise -- Aranesp and Epogen -- may be continuing. The medications increase red blood cell production to treat people who have cancer or are on dialysis.

Studies have suggested the drugs can increase tumor growth in some cancer patients, especially at higher doses.

In recent months, federal health officials have imposed labeling and reimbursement restrictions on the drugs. Aranesp sales fell nearly 20% last year to $3.2 billion, according to healthcare research firm IMS Health Inc.

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