The first half of 2015 is over and done, and as companies prep their earnings releases, we're looking at a different sort of scorecard: the one filled out by investors. In the realm of stock performance, some big drugmakers delivered big gains over the first half of the year.
|Valeant CEO J. Michael Pearson|
The top performer? M&A-happy Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX), which topped the entire healthcare industry for first-half stock gains. Valeant shares zoomed upward by almost 57% for the first 6 months of 2015, ending the period at $227.94. Over that timeframe, Valeant beat on Q1 earnings, hiked its forecasts for the year, bragged about 15% organic growth, and inked not one but two deals: Salix Pharmaceuticals, a $11.1 billion buyout; and Dendreon's prostate cancer med Provenge, which it bought out of bankruptcy.
Next up, BioMarin ($BMRN) and its 48% gain, which took its shares up to $136.46. Often the subject of takeover rumors, BioMarin saw its shares climb in late March on chatter about a potential (yet unlikely, as events would prove) Shire ($SHPG) buyout. JP Morgan analysts tagged the California-based company as a winner for 2015, pointing to its growing portfolio of marketed drugs, late-stage pipeline and rare-disease focus. The company filed its much-watched muscular dystrophy med for FDA approval in April; a decision is due by year's end. Plus, as the second quarter neared its close, BioMarin rolled out Phase II data on its dwarfism drug, BMN-111, sending its shares up 8%.
Hospira ($HSP), the injectables specialist Pfizer ($PFE) agreed to buy earlier this year for $15 billion, delivered a 42.5% gain for the first half, ending the period at $88.85. Pfizer's $90-per-share buyout price doesn't leave much room for Hospira shares to move upward while it's still a standalone play. The company's shareholders approved Pfizer's offer in mid-May, putting the deal on track to close during the second half.
A much smaller company took fourth place among pharma investors in the first half: Incyte ($INCY), whose new rare disease therapy Jakafi, sold in partnership with Novartis ($NVS), is pegged as a blockbuster. In mid-June, Incyte and partner Eli Lilly & Co. ($LLY) rolled out promising Phase III data on a new rheumatoid arthritis drug, baricitinib. And Incyte has a slate of Big Pharma partners testing its cancer immunotherapy epacadostat alongside their own immuno-oncology meds.
Rounding out the top 5 is Novo Nordisk ($NVO), the Danish diabetes specialist. Its 29% gain for the first half took shares up to $55.50. The company beat Q1 earnings expectations handily, but other news dominated the year so far: Novo resubmitted its long-acting insulin Tresiba for FDA approval in April, which means it could hit the U.S. market 6 months earlier than expected. Its experimental oral version of the injectable GLP-1 drug semaglutide--a potential game-changer in a field full of injectables--delivered promising results in a Phase II trial. And its purported CEO-in-waiting, Kåre Schultz, decamped for the top spot at Lundbeck, prompting current chief Lars Rebien Sørensen to recommit to a few more years at the helm.
Other top 10 performers? Fast-growing biotech Regeneron ($REGN), with a 23% increase; a resurgent Eli Lilly with 20.78%; closely followed by hep C heavyweight Gilead Sciences ($GILD) at 20.76%. Then there's Mallinckrodt ($MNK) at 18.9% and Biogen ($BIIB) at 17.6%.
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