Pharmaceuticals: Just What the Dow Ordered

With uncertainty over the fate of the Cypress economy still looming, it's fascinating that investors in both Europe and the U.S. are flocking back to the markets -- suggesting they are confident that the situation will be resolved. The Dow Jones Industrial Average doesn't mind; it jumped 65 points higher this morning on investors' return to the Street.

With the Federal Open Market Committee scheduled to make its new policy announcements this afternoon, the market may get a little bit messy before the close of trading, but for now things are looking up. Since investors may be approaching banks with caution before the FOMC info is released later today, one sector has stood out as the early winner: pharmaceuticals.

Pfizer is the big winner this morning, up by 1.04% as of this writing. The pharma giant is being applauded for the recent approval of Uplyso, a plant-cell-expressed treatment for Gaucher disease, with Israeli-based partner ProtalixBiotherapeutics. The drug, which was approved for use in Brazil, is the first of its kind for the treatment of Gaucher's -- it's produced by Protalix's plant-cell-based protein manufacturing system, which uses genetically engineered carrot cells. The U.S.-based Pfizer is coming under some scrutiny at home, however, as at least one U.S. senator is questioning the price tag of the company's oral rheumatoid arthritis medication, Xeljanz. The drug was approved by the FDA in November and has hit the market, but its $25,000 annual cost seems a bit extreme to some.

Merck is also up this morning by 1%. Despite last week's news about more delays for the company's post-anesthesia drug, investors are happy about some more recent developments. Merck has entered into a collaboration with Bristol-Meyers Squibb for the promotion of Glucophage in China, as well as a deal with Nordic Bioscience to develop sprifermin for osteoarthritis of the knee. BMS and Merck will promote in China the diabetes drug discovered by Merck in order to gain a larger share of the growing diabetes-patient market in that country. For its collaboration with Nordic, Merck will develop and commercialize the new treatment, while Nordic Biosicences will provide clinical development services.

Outside of the Dow, beleaguered Affymax is up 4.76% this morning after shedding more than 60% yesterday. The company continues to struggle following the recall of its only drug, Omontys, a treatment for dialysis patients with anemia. The drug was recalled after it was linked to three fatalities during its use. The company has slashed its workforce by 76% and is weighing a decision to declare bankruptcy since the recall -- and the investigation into the adverse reactions to the drug is only getting started.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Pfizer's drug Xeljanz was not yet available on the market. The Fool regrets the error.

Can Merck beat the patent cliff?
This titan of the pharmaceutical industry stumbled into 2013 and continues to battle patent expirations and pipeline problems. Is Merck still a solid dividend play, or should investors be looking elsewhere? In a new premium research report on Merck, the Fool tackles all of the company's moving parts, its major market opportunities, and reasons to both buy and sell. To find out more, click here to claim your copy today.

The article Pharmaceuticals: Just What the Dow Ordered originally appeared on

Fool contributor Jessica Alling has no position in any stocks mentioned, but you can contact her here. 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.