This Week in Health Care

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Welcome to "This Week in Health Care," where we highlight top sector stories in a fast-hitting style that lets you get back to your weekend. Let's get started.

AstraZeneca (NYS: AZN) struck a deal to keep a generic of Seroquel XR off the market until 2016. Handa Pharmaceuticals' version of the antidepressant allegedly posed the toughest court battle to win, so getting a settlement here is a good move for AstraZeneca. In unrelated news, Chairman Louis Schweitzer will be retiring. During his tenure, share prices have increased 63%, but AstraZeneca is facing a challenging medium term, where the patent cliff and pipeline difficulties may weigh on shares.

Xarelto strikes back! In the multibillion-dollar battle to replace the maligned blood-thinner warfarin, Pfizer (NYS: PFE) and Bristol Myers-Squibb's (NYS: BMY) Eliquis claimed front-runner status with results that did indeed rock. Having Bayer and Johnson & Johnson (NYS: JNJ) offer Xarelto, where labeling concerns of non-superiority have dampened enthusiasm, pulled off a big win. In a just-released study, patients suffering from acute coronary syndrome who were given Xarelto outperformed the placebo. Increased bleeding forced Eliquis to stop short a similar trial. Bayer is expected to push for FDA approval on an ACS indication this year.

Everyone falls back on the aging baby boomers as a reason to be bullish on health care for the long term. Other investors like to highlight international markets like China and India, where a large segment of the population is now wealthy enough to afford expensive Western medicine. And if we combined an aging population in a wealthy international market, what would we have? Japan. Big Pharma has noticed that Japan spends $100 billion on drugs annually and that almost a quarter of the population is over 65. Japan's own Takeda is the dominant player there, yet it controls only 6.5% of the market. Pfizer is No. 2, and it's employing increasingly aggressive sales strategies to get patients to request drugs by name. Approval times are swiftening, and companies like Novartis (NYS: NVS) , which has launched 11 new drugs in the land of the rising sun during the past two years, have significant growth expectations.

And for your weekend reading assignment: Don't miss out on the Fool's take on The Biggest Investor Worry of the Election Season; how to play A Drug Market That's 366 Million Strong; and why in the big biotech space Buybacks That Are Better Than Dividends.

See you next week!

At the time this article was published Fool contributorDavid Williamsonowns shares of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Pfizer and creating a diagonal call position in Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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