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An Ear To The Pharma: 5 Stocks To Watch This Week

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The first quarter of 2018 has come to an end. Innovate Biopharmaceuticals Inc. (INNT), which became a publicly traded company following a reverse merger with Monster Digital, and underwent a 1 for 10 reverse stock split on February 1, 2018, is the star performer in the March quarter - with gains of over 360%.

The only other stock to have made triple-digit gain in the just concluded first quarter is Juniper Pharmaceuticals (JNP), which has returned 118%. On January 31, 2018, the Company announced that it is exploring strategic alternatives in order to enhance shareholder value. Advisory firm Rothschild has been engaged as an independent financial advisor to assist Juniper and its Board of Directors in evaluating potential strategic alternatives. This process remains ongoing.

As we move into the second quarter, it's time to take a look at the pharma stocks and upcoming events to keep an ear out for in the first week of April.

1. Shire plc (SHPG)

Shares of Shire gained nearly 17% last week, following news that Japan's Takeda is considering a takeover bid of the Irish pharmaceutical giant.

The consideration of such an offer is only at a preliminary and exploratory stage, and Takeda has made no approach to the Board of Shire.

Quoting Dealogic, Wall Street Journal said that if Takeda acquires Shire, it will be the largest ever outbound acquisition by a Japanese firm.

Whether or not the deal gets through, we need to wait and watch.

SHPG closed Thursday's (Mar.29) trading at $149.39, up 3.36%.

2. Humana Inc. (HUM)

Nearly 3 years back, health insurer Humana had agreed to be taken over by Aetna Inc. (AET) for a combination of cash and stock valued at about $230 per Humana share or $37 billion in total. But the deal fell through as the U.S. Justice Department struck down the planned merger on antitrust grounds.

Now, rumors of Humana acquisition are doing the rounds. This time, the suitor is reportedly giant retailer Walmart Inc. (WMT).

Humana and Walmart already have a partnership in place, under which they offer seniors a Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan (PDP) with the lowest premium for a Medicare Part-D prescription drug card in the country.

Will the rumor become a reality or will it just remain a rumor?

HUM closed Thursday's trading at $268.83, up 0.48%.

3. Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK)

Merck has sought FDA approval for the expanded use of its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda to include treatment of relapsed or refractory primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma.

The regulatory agency's decision on the proposed new indication is expected on April 3, 2018.

Keytruda, co-developed and co-commercialized with AstraZeneca, is already approved for the treatment of melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, urothelial carcinoma, microsatellite instability-high cancer, and gastric cancer.

The drug fetched annual revenue of $3.81 billion for Merck in 2017, compared to $1.40 billion in 2016.

MRK closed Thursday's trading at $54.47, down 1.13%.

4. Clovis Oncology Inc. (CLVS)

Clovis Oncology's supplemental New Drug Application for Rubraca is under priority review by the FDA, with a decision expected on April 6, 2018.

The Company is seeking expanded approval of Rubraca as maintenance treatment in women with platinum-sensitive recurrent ovarian cancer, regardless of a patient's BRCA mutation status.

Rubraca, also known as rucaparib, was first approved in December 2016 for the treatment of women with advanced ovarian cancer with a BRCA gene mutation, and who have received two or more prior chemotherapies.

The annual net product revenue for Rubraca was $55.5 million in 2017 compared to $78 thousand in 2016.

CLVS closed Thursday's trading at $52.80, down 0.15%.

5. Pacira Pharmaceuticals Inc. (PCRX)

Pacira Pharma's supplemental New Drug Application for Exparel as a nerve block for regional analgesia awaits the FDA's final verdict on April 6, 2018.

Exparel, a liposomal bupivacaine formulation, is a long-acting non-opioid local analgesic, and was approved by the FDA for the management of postsurgical pain in October 2011.

On February 15, 2018, an FDA panel voted 6-4 against recommending approval of Exparel in the proposed additional use as a nerve block for postoperative analgesia.

In March 2015, the FDA too had turned down Pacira's request to approve Exparel in the expanded indication.

PCRX closed Thursday's trading at $31.15, up 0.65%.

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