Big Pharma share prices jumped in the first half, except for BMS

BMS shares fell by 5% in the first half of 2017 in Big Pharma's worst performance for the period, according to a new report.

Even as prices continue to drive negative attention to the drug industry and the threat of governmental action lingers, Big Pharma companies largely enjoyed quite a nice first-half jump in value.

Bristol-Myers Squibb was the only company in EP Vantage’s “big cap” category to post a share price decline over the first six months of the year, the publication reports. The drugmaker’s shares fell by 5% in the period as it continues to endure the stunning lung cancer setback for its critical checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo and subsequent victories for rival Merck's drug.

AbbVie, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson posted the biggest share price increases for large pharma companies in the first half, according to the report. AbbVie and AZ shares each grew by 16% in the first half, while J&J shares jumped 15%. Novartis and Eli Lilly shares each grew by double digits, as well.

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As EP notes, AstraZeneca was the only company to jump on significant news—positive Imfinzi data in the lung cancer maintenance setting—while much of the industry enjoyed an overall lift in sentiment, particularly in the second quarter. Reports of the Trump administration's pharma-friendly executive order discussions likely played a role in the share price increases.

Looking ahead, AZ’s rally could continue with positive data for the Mystic study of PD-L1 immunotherapy Imfinzi and CTLA4 drug tremelimumab in first-line lung cancer, or be stopped in its tracks with a negative result. Reuters recently reported that investors expect the company’s shares to move about 8% either way in the coming weeks.

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Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline rounded out the top 3 worst performers in the large pharma category, according to EP, with their shares growing by 3% and 5%, respectively.

Elsewhere in the industry, smaller players Astellas, Teva and Otsuka each experienced share price drops in the first half. Astellas and Otsuka—which fell by 15% and 6%, respectively—were hurt by the Japanese government’s efforts to curb drug costs. Teva, which fell 8%, has been dogged by a number of problems, including generic drug pricing dynamics.

Pharma has been caught in a pricing firestorm for two years featuring multiple controversies, but Congress hasn’t passed meaningful legislation on the issue. The industry continues to operate with some uncertainty due to ongoing discussions in Washington, D.C., but investor fears of a pricing crackdown seem to have subsided lately.