Healthcare Review: OPKO Health, Centene, Aveo Pharma, Atossa Genetics, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Print E-mail
By Staff and Wire Reports   
Friday, 13 December 2013 14:53
U.S. stocks gained slightly on Friday as investors were cautious after a three-day drop and ahead of the Federal Reserve's final policy meeting of the year next week. Investors have been trying to gauge the timing of when the U.S. central bank may begin to scale back its stimulus measures, with many market participants expecting the Fed to announce a tapering of its monthly bond purchases in March. However, recent signs of strength in economic data have led some investors to be wary of the possibility of an earlier pullback by the Fed, which holds a two-day policy meeting next week.

OPKO Health ($OPK) responds to a short report by Lakewood Capital by saying the company believes it is "based on distorted and inaccurate information. "The company will host an investor conference on Dec. 17 and continues to "believe in our unique business strategy and in the importance of OPKO’s therapeutic and diagnostic product candidates." Shares (OPK), for their part, have continued a slide that has cut 24.5% off their value since Lakewood released its report on Wed.

Centene ($CNC) is surging after guiding 2014 earnings beyond Wall Street expectations; the Medicaid coverage provider sees 2014 EPS of $3.50-$3.80 on a range of $13.5B-$14B in premium and service revenues vs. analyst consensus estimate of $3.61 EPS on $13.77B in revenue. CNC also raises the lower end of its 2013 earnings guidance and now expects EPS of $2.81-$2.87 vs. $2.83 consensus. CNC's 2014 outlook does not include its discontinued Kentucky business, fees insurers are expected to pay next year due to the health care overhaul, and the impact of the just-announced acquisition of a majority interest in U.S. Medical Management.

Aveo Pharma ($AVEO) says its lead experimental drug tivozanib was unlikely to succeed in a mid-stage colon cancer study that was testing if the drug was superior to an approved treatment. Partner Astellas (ALPMF, ALPMY) was testing the drug in combination with standard chemotherapy against cancer drug bevacizumab with standard chemotherapy, for use in previously untreated patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Aveo has seen a string of failures associated with the drug; the FDA denied approval for the drug's use in renal cell carcinoma in June, citing inconsistent patient survival data.

Atossa Genetics ($ATOS) slides sharply after the Food and Drug Administration issues a consumer update on nipple aspirators used for breast cancer screening, saying a mammogram is still the best way to detect breast cancer. The update slammed ATOS' claim that its ForeCYTE Breast Health Test was "literally a Pap smear for breast cancer"; the nipple aspiration test has no such evidence supporting it, the FDA says.

Merrimack Pharmaceuticals ($MACK) has its tail in the air after "encouraging clinical data" from the expanded Phase 1 study of MM-302 for treatment of advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. "Patients treated with MM-302 showed no signs of clinical decline in cardiac function ... These results are encouraging for the development of our nanoliposomal technology platform, and an important step towards successfully establishing the safety and activity profile of MM-302 in the HER2-positive breast cancer population."

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