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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why Cancer Research Could Benefit Pharma ETFs

Billions of dollars are being poured into cancer-fighting drugs. But it’s not just to find a cure – it’s also to gain market share in one of the most untapped markets, from a pharmaceutical standpoint. The related ETFs could benefit no matter which company discovers a drug first.

After largely ignoring the disease, virtually every large pharmaceutical company seems to have discovered cancer now that more about the disease is known. A substantial portion of the smaller biotechnology companies are focused on it, as well. Combined, the two industries are pumping billions of dollars into the development of drugs to fight off the disease, reports Andrew Pollack for The New York Times.

Two industry trends are pushing the move:

  • Recent scientific discoveries have suggested new targets for cancer drug researchers to attack
  • Drug companies are experiencing declining profits from staple drugs such as Lipitor; the high prices that cancer drugs can command are proving to be alluring
  • Cancer patients are often desperate for drugs while insurers could face outrage if they denied payments, so drug makers can charge hefty sums for medicines – even those that don’t work very well

Gardener Harris for The New York Times reports that a settlement has been reached regarding the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) over the company’s illegal promotion of its now-withdrawn painkiller, Bextra. The $2.3 billion fine is the largest-ever levied for Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and the agreement also includes some promotional practices involving other Pfizer drugs — Zyvox, Geodon and Lyrica.

  • PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals (PJP): up 3.9% year-to-date
  • iShares Dow Jones U.S. Pharmaceuticals (IHE): up 10.2% year-to-date
  • SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals (XPH): up 8.7% year-to-date

  • Disclosure I am long PFE shares. (Akademos, Inc.)

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