Health-Care News You Can't Afford to Miss


On a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) closed up 85 points thanks to positive news emanating from Europe, significantly larger moves happened in the health-care sector. Let's find out which stocks were today's big movers and big newsmakers.

The biggest news of the day goes to Johnson & Johnson (NYS: JNJ) for getting Xarelto FDA approved for a second indication, this time in the lucrative atrial fibrillation market. Considering the FDA's negative briefing document and lukewarm comments after a seemingly decisive 9-2 victory from the advisory panel, Xarelto successfully fought an uphill battle. However, the war isn't over. Boehringer Ingelheim's Pradaxa is on the market already, and on the horizon is Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYS: BMY) Eliquis and its outstanding results. That probably dampened investor enthusiasm, as J&J shares were essentially flat on the day.

Of course, flat trading sounds pretty nice when the alternative is a 13% plunge, like Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NAS: OPTR) faced today. Heavy options volume follows a disappointing earnings report late last week, when the company announced not only widening losses but also said its antibiotic Dificid won't reach breakeven for three years. Ouch!

And on a happier note, Inhibitex (NAS: INHX) kept its streak of double-digit gains alive with another 14% surge today, putting it up 150% over the past week. Unlike Vertex's (NAS: VRTX) Incivek and its once-a-week injection; Inhibitex's drug INX-189 is an oral hepatitis-C treatment that doesn't need peginterferon (and its nasty side effects), which could make it the standard of care. Investors should watch both companies closely, along with Pharmasset (NAS: VRUS) , which was up 5% today after releasing a study showing that its oral hep-C drug PSI-7977 had a 100% cure rate after 12 weeks. In addition, the company just started a new phase 3 trial last week.

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At the time thisarticle 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, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and Pfizer, as well as 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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