3 Things to Watch With OPKO Health


While most investors get excited if they make 15% in a year on a stock, there's a company based in Florida with shares nearly quadrupling that amount in the past three months. OPKO Health shares have surged nearly 58% since the end of October. Can this stock continue its upward path? Here are three things to watch that could make the difference.

1. Gobbling by the OPKO-topus
I'm not sure exactly how much the typical octopus eats, but the "OPKO-topus" gobbles up quite a bit. In October 2011, OPKO bought Claros Diagnostics for $10 million in cash and $22.5 million in OPKO stock. A couple of months later, the company purchased an Israeli pharmaceutical company, FineTech, for $27.7 million.

OPKO added more acquisitions during 2012. In April, it bought ALS, a privately held Chile-based pharmaceutical company, for $4 million. Farmadiet -- a Spanish firm that sells pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and veterinary products -- was acquired in August for around $16 million.

Two fourth-quarter transactions occurred to help with OPKO's commercial launch of its new 4Kscore prostate test. A deal to buy Prost-Data (also known as OURLab) was announced in October and finalized in December. That purchase enabled OPKO to gain 18 phlebotomy sites in the U.S. and a national sales force that calls on urologists. The company also announced the acquisition of Silcon Comercio, a Brazilian pharmaceutical firm, in December.

Further gobbling has already begun in 2013 as well. OPKO announced in early January that it was buying Cytochroma, a Canadian pharma with two lead products in phase 3 studies. The company also recently announced that it was issuing $175 million of convertible senior notes, which will add to its cash stockpile. More cash probably means more acquisitions for OPKO.

The right kinds of purchases should be able to help the company market its products more effectively. However, if the assimilation of its increasingly larger empire doesn't go well, OPKO shares could suffer.

2. Results, results, results
Three different results loom large for OPKO. One stems from phase 3 clinical trials of NK-1 receptor antagonist rolapitant for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, or CINV. OPKO expects results in the second half of this year.

The company sees a potential U.S. opportunity for rolapitant of more than $1 billion if all goes well. Merck's Emend is currently the only NK-1 receptor antagonist on the market. Emend brought in $358 million in sales during the first nine months of 2012, which is on track to outpace the $419 million in full-year sales from 2011.

Two more phase 3 results are on the way for chronic kidney disease drugs Replidea and Alpharen, although probably not until 2014. OPKO gained both drugs with its acquisition of Cytochroma. Replidea is a vitamin D prohormone used to treat pre-dialysis patients. If Replidea ultimately gains regulatory approval, the company plans to market the drug in conjunction with its point-of-care vitamin D diagnostic test currently in development.

Replidea has the potential to make solid gains against Sanofi's Drisdol and Hectorol, as well as AbbVie's Zemplar. The experimental drug now owned by OPKO could have a better efficacy and safety profile than these currently available drugs.

3. Appearance of Frost
Alright, this one is a little tongue-in-cheek. OPKO CEO Dr. Phillip Frost appeared on CNBC's Mad Money on Monday. The company's stock opened the next morning more than 9% higher, although those gains were given up in large part during the day. The appearance of Frost must be a good thing.

All kidding aside, one final thing to watch with OPKO is the difference that Frost makes in the success of the company. He has consistently bought shares in the company every month over the past couple of years. Few CEOs exhibit that level of commitment to their companies.

Frost also happens to be chairman of the board for Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals . He made billions after selling IVAX, a drug company that he founded, to Teva in 2005. His connections within the industry are undoubtedly helpful for OPKO as it continues to grow through expansion.

Tantalizing tentacles
I have been keeping an eye on OPKO for only a short time. I like what I see for the most part. Granted, the company is small. It's also losing money -- more than $10 million last quarter. However, OPKO appears to be poised for success with new product launches, the potential for drugs in the pipeline, and likely further acquisitions. This company's tentacles are tantalizing.

While you can certainly make huge gains in biotech and pharmaceutical stocks, the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. In our free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich," we name stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

The article 3 Things to Watch With OPKO Health originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Keith Speights has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.