Healthcare Review: USANA Health Sciences, Gilead, Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria, Celgene, Abbvie Print E-mail
By Staff and Wire Reports   
Monday, 24 March 2014 14:24
The US stocks fell as an index of manufacturing showed a slowdown in March while European shares snapped two days of gains amid concern the Ukraine crisis may escalate. Gold weakened. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.3% to 1,860.92 at 10:09 am in New York, after jumping the most in a month last week. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.6% as world leaders gathered in The Hague. Russia’s ruble strengthened against the dollar. Yields on 10 year treasury bonds gained for the first time in three days. Gold fell 1.3%. US President Barack Obama arrived in Europe for talks as Russia, which completed its annexation of Crimea last week, masses soldiers on the border with Ukraine. Data on Monday showed the pace of the US manufacturing activity slowed this month, while other reports indicated China’s manufacturing industry weakened in March and growth at euro-area factories and service providers held close to the fastest since 2011. China’s leaders have pledged to accelerate policies to support the economy.

Shares of USANA Health Sciences ($USNA +9.1%) enjoy a nice pop in sympathy with China's relatively gentle tap on the wrist to Nu Skin. Consensus estimates for 2014 and 2015 are earnings of $6.04 on revenues of $800M and earnings of $6.98 on revenues of $866M, respectively.

Democrat Representative Henry Waxman, long a bete noire of the pharmaceuticals industry, has his sites trained on Gilead ($GILD) for charging $84,000 for a course of the company's new Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi."Our concern is that a treatment will not cure patients if they cannot afford it," Waxman co-writes in a letter to Gilead CEO John Milligan. Waxman signed the letter along with fellow Democrats Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette. The problem for Waxman et al is that other than trying to shame Gilead into lowering the price, they have no mechanism for forcing the company to do so. The best bet for the congressmen, insurers and patients is competition, with a number of rivals also working on Hepatitis C drugs.

The FDA has approved Novartis' ($NVS) and Roche's ($RHHBY) Xolair treatment for Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU), a form of hives. Xolair is the first biologic medicine to be approved for CIU, a skin condition that can cause severe itching and can last for many years. Around 1.5M people in the U.S. develop CIU at some point in their lives."Nearly 50% of patients have inadequate response to H1-antihistamines, previously the only approved therapy for CIU," Roche says. The FDA's authorization covers people 12 years old and older who still suffer symptoms of CIU despite treatment with H1-antihistamines.

Celgene's ($CELG) Otezla (apremilast) oral treatment demonstrated clinically meaningful and sustained improvements in the skin, nail and scalp of adult patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis in two Phase III studies. Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder whose cause is unknown. Celgene presented data from the studies yesterday after the FDA last week approved the therapy for psoriatic arthritis. Celgene is now waiting on FDA authorization for the wider psoriasis population, a decision that is expected in September.

At the upcoming International Liver Congress in London, Abbvie ($ABBV) scientists will present data from the company's four clinical trials of its investigational Hepatitis C treatment in genotype 1 patients. SAPPHIRE-II is scheduled for April 10, SAPPHIRE-1 for April 11, PEARL-III and TURQUOISE-II for April 12.

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